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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities => Politics & Religion => Topic started by: Crafty_Dog on October 24, 2006, 05:54:25 AM

Title: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 24, 2006, 05:54:25 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on October 24, 2006, 06:00:06 AM
"the moderates in the Iranian Government" :roll:
Title: Living la vida na levo in Tehran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 01, 2006, 05:17:01 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.
Title: Iran: Already at War
Post by: buzwardo on November 01, 2006, 10:49:31 AM
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 -
Title: Military Options against Iran, Part I
Post by: buzwardo on November 01, 2006, 01:34:13 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.
Title: Military Options against Iran, Part II
Post by: buzwardo on November 01, 2006, 01:35:32 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on November 05, 2006, 06:19:59 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).

Title: Iran Offers Missles to Israel's Enemies
Post by: buzwardo on November 11, 2006, 08:30:06 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."
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 14, 2006, 10:43:12 AM
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.
Levine news
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 22, 2006, 07:35:19 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 24, 2006, 12:11:42 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
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Quijote on November 24, 2006, 12:47:56 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!
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Quijote on November 29, 2006, 07:33:15 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
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 13, 2006, 06:07:12 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.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 16, 2006, 07:15:16 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.)
Title: Faux Populi
Post by: buzwardo on December 21, 2006, 01:54:44 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 -
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 22, 2006, 07:04:00 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 28, 2006, 06:56:25 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 28, 2006, 08:00:16 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.
Title: The "Twelfth Imam" Looms?
Post by: buzwardo on January 03, 2007, 01:41:59 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 -
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 06, 2007, 07:28:38 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 08, 2007, 01:44:16 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."
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 16, 2007, 09:32:54 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: SB_Mig on January 16, 2007, 11:35:02 AM
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."
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on January 16, 2007, 02:03:02 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.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 22, 2007, 01:02:10 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 24, 2007, 05:49:06 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: ccp on January 26, 2007, 06:10:05 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 30, 2007, 08:53:18 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: DougMacG on January 30, 2007, 12:27:25 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.
Title: What do other forum members think? About Iran
Post by: ccp on January 30, 2007, 02:07:07 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.

Title: I don't know why body of my post didn't get posted but here are my thoughts
Post by: ccp on January 30, 2007, 02:14:46 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: ccp on January 30, 2007, 02:16:53 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 30, 2007, 02:25:50 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 , , ,

Title: ElBaradei
Post by: ccp on January 30, 2007, 03:56:37 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.


Title: Re: Iran
Post by: DougMacG on January 31, 2007, 12:28:22 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).
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 01, 2007, 06:14:43 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 01, 2007, 08:36:14 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.
Title: Amir Taheri
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 02, 2007, 06:42:01 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).
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 02, 2007, 08:19:34 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 12, 2007, 05:22:22 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 12, 2007, 10:37:30 PM

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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 16, 2007, 06:00:55 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 19, 2007, 09:00:30 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 20, 2007, 03:59:25 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.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 23, 2007, 06:30:43 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" :roll: 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?  :x  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 !  :x ) 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.
Title: US Backs Attacks in Iran?
Post by: buzwardo on February 25, 2007, 09:30:12 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
Title: Machiavelli Mulls the Mullahs
Post by: buzwardo on March 01, 2007, 10:34:36 AM
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
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 02, 2007, 09:12:19 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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 07, 2007, 10:35:42 AM
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.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 08, 2007, 09:46:39 AM
IRAN: The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to suspend 22 technical aid programs to Iran as part of the expansion of international sanctions on Tehran over its refusal to halt its uranium enrichment program. The widely expected decision, which stiffens the penalties placed on Iran by the U.N. Security Council on Dec. 23, 2006, was made by consensus.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on March 08, 2007, 10:20:39 AM
The IAEA put Iran on double-secret probation.  :roll:
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on March 08, 2007, 10:49:47 AM
**Now THIS could be good.**

Former Iranian Defense Official Talks to Western Intelligence
By Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 8, 2007; Page A16

A former Iranian deputy defense minister who once commanded the Revolutionary Guard has left his country and is cooperating with Western intelligence agencies, providing information on Hezbollah and Iran's ties to the organization, according to a senior U.S. official.

Ali Rez Asgari disappeared last month during a visit to Turkey. Iranian officials suggested yesterday that he may have been kidnapped by Israel or the United States. The U.S. official said Asgari is willingly cooperating. He did not divulge Asgari's whereabouts or specify who is questioning him, but made clear that the information Asgari is offering is fully available to U.S. intelligence.

Asgari served in the Iranian government until early 2005 under then-President Mohammad Khatami. Asgari's background suggests that he would have deep knowledge of Iran's national security infrastructure, conventional weapons arsenal and ties to Hezbollah in south Lebanon. Iranian officials said he was not involved in the country's nuclear program, and the senior U.S. official said Asgari is not being questioned about it. Former officers with Israel's Mossad spy agency said yesterday that Asgari had been instrumental in the founding of Hezbollah in the 1980s, around the time of the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

Iran's official news agency, IRNA, quoted the country's top police chief, Brig. Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi-Moqaddam, as saying that Asgari was probably kidnapped by agents working for Western intelligence agencies. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Asgari was in the United States. Another U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, denied that report and suggested that Asgari's disappearance was voluntary and orchestrated by the Israelis. A spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council did not return a call for comment.

The Israeli government denied any connection to Asgari. "To my knowledge, Israel is not involved in any way in this disappearance," said Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry.

An Iranian official, who agreed to discuss Asgari on the condition of anonymity, said that Iranian intelligence is unsure of Asgari's whereabouts but that he may have been offered money, probably by Israel, to leave the country. The Iranian official said Asgari was thought to be in Europe. "He has been out of the loop for four or five years now," the official said.

Israeli and Turkish newspapers reported yesterday that Asgari disappeared in Istanbul shortly after he arrived there on Feb. 7. Iran sent a delegation to Turkey to investigate his disappearance and requested help from Interpol in locating him.

Former Mossad director Danny Yatom, who is now a member of Israel's parliament, said he believes Asgari defected to the West. "He is very high-caliber," Yatom said. "He held a very, very senior position for many long years in Lebanon. He was in effect commander of the Revolutionary Guards" there.

Ram Igra, a former Mossad officer, said Asgari spent much of the 1980s and 1990s overseeing Iran's efforts to support, finance, arm and train Hezbollah. The State Department lists the Shiite Lebanese group as a terrorist organization.

"He lived in Lebanon and, in effect, was the man who built, promoted and founded Hezbollah in those years," Igra told Israeli state radio. "If he has something to give the West, it is in this context of terrorism and Hezbollah's network in Lebanon."

The organization, led by Hasan Nasrallah, is believed to have been behind several attacks against U.S., Jewish and Israeli interests worldwide, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 Americans, and the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed more than 80 people.

Israel fought a bloody, month-long war with Hezbollah last summer in south Lebanon after the group seized two Israeli soldiers. The soldiers have not been returned and their fate is unknown. Other Israeli soldiers have vanished in Lebanon during decades of conflict along the countries' shared border, most notably an Israeli airman named Ron Arad. Yatom said it is possible Asgari "knows quite a lot about Ron Arad."

In a January briefing to Congress, then-Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte described Hezbollah as a growing threat to U.S. interests. "As a result of last summer's hostilities, Hezbollah's self-confidence and hostility toward the United States as a supporter of Israel could cause the group to increase its contingency planning against United States interests," Negroponte said.

U.S. intelligence officials said they had no evidence that Hezbollah was actively planning attacks but noted that the organization has the capacity to do so if it feels threatened.

Correspondents Scott Wilson in Jerusalem and Anthony Shadid in Beirut and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 12, 2007, 08:37:19 PM
Iran, Russia: Nuclear Reactors and Geopolitics

Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 12 jumped into the dispute over Russia's construction of a nuclear reactor in Iran, explicitly telling state press that all work will be suspended until the Iranians resume their payments. The message between the lines is clear: Russia will not complete the Bushehr reactor -- or at least not while Putin remains president.


Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 12 personally ordered the suspension of any transfers of nuclear materials and technologies to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant project, ostensibly because of Iran's unwillingness to meet its payment schedule for the project. The idea that Iran, currently flush with petrodollars and facing down the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program, would choose this moment to stop paying its primary political backer, Russia, is an odd one.

The reality is that Putin has no intention of ever completing the Bushehr project.

The Bushehr project dates to 1995, when the Russians agreed to build it for Iran, and was supposed to be completed by 1999. In theory, aside from some simple -- if essential -- component installation, the facility has been ready since 2004. Now, pushing three years later, the project remains a white elephant, and the Russians are claiming the Iranians are not paying for their services.

The nuclear card has been among Iran's most reliable means of drawing Washington's attention and pushing the Americans to take Tehran's concerns over the future of Iraq seriously, so Putin's announcement has delivered the Iranians a strong blow. If a junior minister or representative of a state firm were to insist that a bogus payment problem existed, it easily could be written off as bureaucratic stubbornness or the payment getting lost in the mail. Not so when a president -- particularly one as sober, controlling and exacting as Putin -- puts his personal seal on the policy. Bushehr is not going to be finished.

This does not eliminate Iran's nuclear card. Tehran still has its uranium conversion program at Isfahan, its uranium enrichment program at Natanz, and a heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak, but these facilities are not under regular international inspections, and moreover have direct uses in a nuclear weapons program. (Though uranium power reactors such as Bushehr can be used in a weapons program, they require extensive additional support infrastructure first.) It is far more difficult to convince the West -- and especially the Europeans, who are less inclined to view Iranian plans as nefarious -- that these facilities are all for the peaceful development of nuclear energy when one's power plant is not getting off the ground.

Ultimately, it is all political. Russia uses Bushehr as a means of injecting its influence into the Middle East, positioning itself as an impossible-to-ignore go-between for the West and Iran. So long as the facility is under construction, Moscow has maximized its leverage with all parties.

Should the facility ever come on line, however, Moscow will lose hugely. First, the West would be furious with Russia for giving Iran functional nuclear technology, severely damaging Russian relations with the West. Second, with Bushehr operational, neither the West nor Iran would need to keep talking to Russia about the Iranian nuclear power program. Third, Iran is not a natural Russian ally. The two have fought in a number of wars and actively compete for influence in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. A nuclear-armed Iran is actually more of a long-term threat to Russia than it is to the United States, which a strategist like Putin knows well.

Not even in the case of a breach in U.S.-Russian relations -- and those relations are not exactly in tip-top shape -- will Putin change this policy. There is only one conceivable policy evolution in Russia that would allow Iran access to Russian nuclear technology: regime change that saw the ejection of Putin and his inner circle of pragmatists in favor of Russia's siloviki.

The siloviki are a loosely aligned group of Russian nationalists and ultranationalists who dominate the country's military, intelligence and foreign policy apparatus and share the goal of resurrecting Russia as a great power. One of the siloviki's most glaring weaknesses is that they consider anything bad for the United States by definition good for Russia. Many siloviki have declared their support for proliferating nuclear technology far and wide in order to complicate U.S. efforts globally.

Under a siloviki government, therefore, Russia might actually give Iran what it needs to make Bushehr operational -- and perhaps even more -- but not until then.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 13, 2007, 11:03:58 AM
London, March 13, 2007

Europe Must Decide

by Matthias Küntzel

We stand at a historic crossroads. Disregarding Security Council decisions, Iran's rulers are stepping up their nuclear programme. Will Europe continue soft-soaping the Mullahs or will it show some resolve? Will it accept the fact that, by seeking nuclear weapons, the Iranian dictatorship is escalating its holy war at the gates of Europe? Or will it summon up the will to raise the economic price Iran must pay to a point where the regime – which is facing mounting popular discontent – has to give way?

If any power is still able to get the regime in Tehran to back off without the use of military force, then that power is the European Union. The USA can't do it because it has no trade with Iran . China, Japan and Russia can't do it either, because Iran can get along without them. But Iran needs Europe. Iran gets 40% of its imports from the EU, which in turn takes in 25% of Iranian exports.

While Japan and China are interested in Iran essentially as a source of energy supplies, Germany , Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and France provide the Iranian economy with vital investments. Trading partner number one was and is Germany; as the former President of the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce in Tehran, Michael Tockuss, has explained, "some two thirds of Iranian industry relies on German engineering products. The Iranians are certainly dependent on German spare parts and suppliers."

Certainly dependent! The potential leverage of economic sanctions couldn't be clearer. Since then a study by the Iranian Parliament has stated the obvious: without European spare parts and industrial goods the Iranian economy would grind to a halt within a few months. If anyone is still in a position to use this lever before it is too late, then it is Germany and the EU.

Of course Europe should have done so back in 2003, when Tehran was forced to admit that it had been pursuing a secret nuclear programme for the past eighteen years. Nuclear weapons in the hands of the world's number one sponsor of terrorism? The public was alarmed. But what happened?

Instead of immediately cutting technology transfers to Iran , European exports to Iran rose 29 % to € 12.9 billion between 2003 and 2005.

Prior to 2003, government-backed export guarantees had fuelled the expansion in trade by countries such as Italy, France and Austria. After the exposure of Iran's secret nuclear programme, these export guarantees were not stopped by European governments but generously increased, as we can see here in the case of Germany and Britain .

In its 2004 annual report on export guarantees, Berlin's Economics Ministry dedicated a special section to Iran that captures its giddy exitement 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 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."

British trade with Iran is relatively small in comparison to Germany. Between 2003 and 2005 Germany's export to Iran was about five times larger than exports from British firms. The governmental policies of both countries, however, are quite similar. In Britain , there is a separate government department, the "Export Credits Guarantee Department" or ECGD that reports to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and derives its powers from the "Export and Investment Guarantees Act 1991". According to the ECGD's annual list of guarantees the British export credit guarantees for business with Iran rose by a factor of 2,6  - from 30 Million pounds in 2003 to an amazingly 77 Million pounds in 2004.

Is this boosting of business with Iran compatible with the ECGD's declared goal "to ensure its activities with other Government objectives including those on sustainable development, human rights, good governance and trade"? Not at all.

Instead this policy was and is a stab in the back for Iranian human rights groups, since there can be no question here of "change through trade". On the contrary. Three quarters of all Iranian industrial firms are in state hands. The export deals are not being struck with the private sector, but with the regime's "Revolutionary Foundations" such as the "Martyrs Foundations" run by Islamist hardliners. These "little kings", as they are known in Iran, are personally appointed by the revolutionary leadership and Parliament has no control over them. Most are or have been involved in terrorism or weapons of mass destruction programmes.

European export support bolsters the Mullahs' nuclear ambitions in three ways. Firstly, a proportion of any money lent to the regime is spent on nuclear research. Secondly, every export deal strengthens the internal position of the hardliners, who are invariably hardliners on the nuclear issue too. Thirdly, the country is getting state-of-the-art technology of a sort that can be used in the nuclear sphere. For example, in August 2003 Siemens – a firm with expertise in the field of nuclear power station construction – signed a contract for the delivery of 24 power stations. To make this deal, Siemens had to commit itself to "technology transfer with regard to small and medium-sized power stations".

2005 marked a further watershed. Now, a hardliner had become President. Ahmadinejad's tirades about Israel, the Holocaust and the Twelfth Iman shed a harsh new light on the special threat presented by Iran's nuclear programme. This was not only a good opportunity, but also a truly compelling reason for a change of export policy towards Iran. Indeed, the OECD raised Iran's rating of the risk regarding possible export guarantees. Exports became more expensive and the mood among exporters worsened. Nevertheless, in 2006 German exports to Iran fell only by 6%. Last year German exports worth € 4.1 billion, made its way to Iran. Austria and Germany – despite the Holocaust denial and threats to annihilate Israel –continued to promote exports as if nothing had happened. In 2006, some 20% of all German export credit guarantees were still being devoted to business with Iran. In Britain , the last ECGD annual report of 2006 shows that here the third largest liability was decided in favour of business with Iran.

 The real pan-European support for Iran , however, including the UK, relates to the Nabucco project for a giant pipeline running directly from the Iranian gas fields to the city of  Baumgarten in Lower Austria . The final decision on this project is to be made at the end of this year. If this pipeline is built, the relationship between Europe and the Mullahs would change. In this case Iran 's Islamist regime would become Europe's new strategic partner.

It was precisely in February 2006, as the Iranian president's tirades reached their height, that the European Investment Bank decided to put a billion dollars into this project. However, this Bank is an EU body. It gets its capital from the EU member states including the UK. As the EU's financial instrument, it is obliged to pursue the EU's political goals. Propping up the economy of a regime that publicly hangs young women and men for their sexual relationships can hardly count as one of the EU's political goals. Was there ever a public debate or a parliamentary debate in this country about the Nabucco and its long-term effects?

Today, in 2007, Iran is on the verge of being able to produce enriched uranium on an industrial scale. But Europe continues to oppose the establishment of an effective sanctions regime by a "coalition of the willing" going beyond the limits of the Security Council resolutions. On the contrary, three weeks ago, the German government declared, that also today it grants new Hermes export credit guarantees for trade with Iran. The British governmental organisation "UK Trade & Investment", undauntedly beats the drum for more trade with Iran as well: "Iran is one of the most exciting countries in the region for business development … The main opportunity for UK business is in providing capital and equipment to Irans's priority sectors: Oil, gas and petrochemicals, Mining [and] Power."

What do the turning points of 2003, 2005 and 2007 show us? They show the stubbornness with which business and political leaders constantly follow the same paradigm: Iran's nuclear ambitions are treated as a negligible quantity, with "business as usual" taking priority. They act as if it is a matter of secondary importance from the point of view of European interests whether Iran has nuclear weapons or not and are taking their distance from those advocating sanctions. They seem to have fallen prey to the illusion that a nuclear Iran would have no impact on Europe. But there could be no bigger mistake. An Iran with nuclear weapons would be a nightmare not only for Israel, but also for Europe itself.

If Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, the whole of the Middle East would go nuclear too – whether because the Iranian regime would fulfil its promise to pass the technology on to its friends or because the Arab regimes would seek their own nuclear capability in Iran's wake. The specific danger presented by the Iranian bomb, however, stems from the unique ideological atmosphere surrounding it - a mixture of death-wish and weapons-grade uranium, of Holocaust denial and High-Tec, of fantasies of world domination and missile research, of Shiite messianism and plutonium. There are other dictatorships in the world. But in Iran the fantasy-worlds of antisemitism and religious mission are linked with technological megalomania and the physics of mass destruction. For the first time we face a danger that first appeared on the horizon 70 years ago: a kind of "Adolf Hitler" with nuclear weapons.

Does anyone here really believe that Europe would be hardly affected by this? As Angela Merkel informed us recently, "We must take the Iranian President's rhetoric seriously". Quite right! Ahmadinejad is gleefully contemplating the end of liberal democracy as a whole: "Those with insights can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems", as he wrote in a letter to President Bush, reiterating the shared view of the entire theocratic elite. He sees himself and his country as being in the midst of a "historical war that has been underway for hundreds of years" and drums into the heads of his followers that "we must make ourselves aware of the baseness of our enemy, such that our holy hatred will spread ever further like a wave." In order to win this war, the Shahab 5 medium-range missile, which can carry nuclear warheads and strike almost any target in Europe, is being built. In order to win this war, thousands of suicide bombers have been recruited and Hezbollah cells established throughout Europe – cells whose members are under the direct command of the Iranian secret services.

Europe will at once find itself in a new situation if Iran gets the bomb. Whether or not Iran formally declares itself to be a nuclear power is secondary. In the same way as the death sentence on British author Salman Rushdie succeeded in striking fear into thousands of hearts, so will Iran's nuclear option serve to torpedo any prospect of peace in the Middle East and keep Europe in line.

Something has to happen to prevent this scenario from becoming a reality. Which brings me back to the final remaining non-military resort in the conflict with Iran: tough sanctions.

Of course, even outside America there are firms that are behaving responsibly, firms about which it could be said that, even if they perhaps don't always engage in "fair trade", they are at least committed to "terror-free trade", firms that have either totally ceased involvement in Iran or reduced their activities to a minimum. Among them are the Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse, British Petroleum and the Allianz. They no longer want to get their hands dirty.

But then there is the far longer list of firms that want to do business with the jihadists in Tehran, albeit in increasing secrecy, since they wish to keep their partnership with the Iranian regime out of the public eye. Among them are giants like BASF, Henkel, Continental, Bahlsen, Krupp, Linde, Lurgi, Siemens, ZF Freidrichshafen, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Scania, Volvo, MAN, Shell, Total, Hansa Chemie, Hoechst, OMV, Renault and SAS as well as smaller firms such as Stahlbau Schauenberg , Schernier and Wolf Thermo-Module. From now on we should call such firms what they are: silent partners in terrorism.

Tehran is purposely driving on towards nuclear weapons. Time is at a premium. The security environment for the twenty-first century is being decided right now. Tomorrow, will we already be living in the shadow of the Iranian bomb? Or can the international community still stop Ahmadinejad and his regime?

If respect for the victims of the Holocaust still counts for anything in Europe today, then any firm that does business with the antisemitic regime – a regime that promotes suicide terrorism, finances Hezbollah and has explicitly stated its goal of destroying Israel - must be exposed and denounced. If continental Europe's civil societies wish to make good on their claim that they have learned the lessons of history, then pressure must be exerted on their Governments until they do what has to be done to prevent the Iranian bomb. If Great Britain and the EU fail to put prompt and massive pressure on Iran and confront it with the alternative of either changing course or suffering devastating economic blows, all that will remain will be the choice between a bad solution – the military option – and a dreadful one – the Iranian bomb.

Europe must cease to be the sleeping partners of terrorism. We must put a stop to the international competition to see who can make the dirtiest deal in Iran. We must break with an approach that is leading with businesslike efficiency towards catastrophe.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 20, 2007, 05:55:08 AM
Russia's shift on this is a most welcome development.

The matter of the anti-aircraft missiles that they have sent/will send? seems to have fallen off the radar screen.  Does anyone know the current status of this matter?


Russia Gives Iran Ultimatum on Enrichment
Published: March 20, 2007

PARIS, March 19 — Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials say.

The ultimatum was delivered in Moscow last week by Igor S. Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian National Security Council, to Ali Hosseini Tash, Iran’s deputy chief nuclear negotiator, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a confidential diplomatic exchange between two governments was involved.

For years, President Bush has been pressing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to cut off help to Iran on the nuclear power plant that Russia is building at Bushehr, in southern Iran. But Mr. Putin has resisted. The project is Tehran’s first serious effort to produce nuclear energy and has been very profitable for Russia.

Recently, however, Moscow and Tehran have been engaged in a public argument about whether Iran has paid its bills, which may explain Russia’s apparent shift. But the ultimatum may also reflect an increasing displeasure and frustration on Moscow’s part with Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium at its vast facility at Natanz.

“We’re not sure what mix of commercial and political motives are at play here,” one senior Bush administration official said in Washington. “But clearly the Russians and the Iranians are getting on each other’s nerves — and that’s not all bad.”

A senior European official said: “We consider this a very important decision by the Russians. It shows that our disagreements with the Russians about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program are tactical. Fundamentally, the Russians don’t want a nuclear Iran.”

At a time of growing tensions between Washington and Moscow, American officials are welcoming Russian support on the situation with Iran as a sign that there are still areas in which the two powers can cooperate.

Russia has been deeply reluctant to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the Security Council, which is expected to vote on a new set of penalties against the country within the next week.

But American officials have been trying to create a commercial incentive for Russia to put pressure on Iran. One proposal the Bush administration has endorsed since late 2005 envisions having the Russians enrich Iran’s uranium in Russia. That creates the prospect of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in business for Russia, and a way to ensure that Iran receives only uranium enriched for use in power reactors, instead of for use in weapons.

Iran has rejected those proposals, saying it has the right to enrich uranium on its own territory.

The Russian Atomic Energy Agency, or Rosatom, is eager to become a major player in the global nuclear energy market. As Security Council action against Iran has gained momentum and Iran’s isolation increases, involvement with the Bushehr project may detract from Rosatom’s reputation.

In a flurry of public comments in the past month, Russian officials acknowledged that Russia was delaying the delivery of fuel to the reactor in the Iranian port city of Bushehr. It blamed the decision on the failure of Iran to pay what it owes on the project, not on concerns about nuclear proliferation.

But last month, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov informed some European officials that Russia had made a political decision not to deliver the fuel, adding that Russia would state publicly that the sole reason was financial, European officials said.

And then last week, a senior Iranian official confirmed in an interview that Mr. Ivanov had threatened Iran with an ultimatum: The fuel would be delivered only after Iran’s enrichment of uranium at Natanz was frozen.

Members of the Security Council are moving toward a vote this week on a draft resolution imposing further sanctions on Iran for its defiance of demands that it suspend enrichment activities and return to negotiations over its nuclear program.

The resolution focuses on the country’s arms exports, a leading Iranian bank and the elite Revolutionary Guards military force. It will reduce Iran’s access to foreign currency and isolate the bank, Bank Sepah, from international financing.

The United States State Department has granted visas to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and a retinue of 38 aides and security staff so that he can address the Security Council meeting.

Page 2 of 2)

Throughout the negotiations, the Russians tried to water down the resolution, a reflection of both their desire to avoid a backlash in Iran and their strong skepticism about the effectiveness of sanctions.

The pending resolution follows a similar one passed in December that required four months of negotiations, in large part because of Russia’s resistance. Russia’s support came only after an initial proposal, which would have imposed curbs on Bushehr, was dropped.

Russian officials have gone out of their way to not publicly link the Bushehr project and the crisis over Iran’s decision to forge ahead with producing enriched uranium, which, depending on the level of enrichment, can be used to produce electricity or make weapons.

In remarks on Sunday, for example, Mr. Ivanov said there should be no linkage between discussions on Iran’s nuclear program and the Bushehr plant. “It is a separate issue,” he told a conference of Russia’s Foreign and Defense Policies Council. He added, “All the work being done is under strict control of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency based in Vienna.

He also cautioned against using possible nuclear sanctions for other purposes, saying, “We oppose attempts to use this issue as an instrument of pressure or interference in Iran’s internal affairs.”

But Mr. Ivanov also called on Iran to resolve outstanding questions with the agency about its nuclear program and to stop enriching uranium. The Russians have been pressing Iran to take some sort of pause in its uranium enrichment that might allow the Security Council sanction process to halt and bring Iran back to the negotiating table.

“The clock must be stopped; Iran must freeze uranium enrichment,” Mr. Ivanov said. “The U.N. Security Council will then take a break, too, and the parties would gather at the negotiating table.”

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has also called for a “pause,” noting that even a brief suspension of enrichment would be enough to get the United States to the negotiating table with Iran under an offer that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made in May.

The Bushehr nuclear project has a long history. For more than a decade, Russia has been working under a $1 billion contract to complete the plant, which began with Germany during the time of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. After the 1979 revolution, the project was halted; then the site was bombed by Iraq during its eight-year war with Iran. When Iran decided to complete the facility after the war ended, Germany, under pressure from the United States, refused to finish it, or even provide Moscow with the original blueprints.

The project — already eight years behind schedule — is now almost complete. Last year, Russia agreed to ship low-enriched fuel to the plant by March 2007 and start it in September, with electricity generation to start by November.

But in mid-February, Russia said Iran had not made the last two $25 million monthly payments after insisting that it be allowed to pay in euros instead of dollars. Russian officials cited a delay in the delivery of safety equipment from an unspecified third country as another reason for the decision.

Iranian officials denied that payments had been delayed. “Iran has had no delay whatsoever in making payments for the Bushehr nuclear power plant,” Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was quoted by Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA as saying after the Russian claim.

“We would be crazy at this late date to endanger the project by not paying,” the official said. “There is no financial problem. The Russians want to use this issue as a bargaining chip.”

Title: Re: Iranian chess game vs. U.S. and U.K.
Post by: Stray Dog on March 24, 2007, 07:42:51 AM
The capture of British Navy servicemen by Iranian forces is not simply an incident over sea sovereignty in the Persian Gulf. It is a calculated move on behalf of Teheran’s Jihadi chess players to provoke a “projected” counter move by London and its American allies. It is all happening in a regional context, carefully engineered by the Mullahs strategic planners. Here is how:
The Iranian regime’s master plan is to wait out the remainder of Tony Blair’s mandate (few more months) and the remaining “real time” of President Bush (till about the end of 2007). For the thinking process in Tehran, based on their Western consultants, believe that Washington and London have reached the end of the rope and will only have till 2008 to do something major to destabilize Ahmedinijad regime. As explained by a notorious propagandist on al Jazeera today the move is precisely to respond to the Anglo-American attempt to “stir trouble” inside Iran. Anis Naccash, a Lebanese intellectual supporter of the Ayatollahs regime, appearing from Tehran few hours ago on the Qatari-based satellite and “explained” that the “US and the UK must understand that Iran is as much at war with these two powers in as much as they support the rise of movements and security instability inside Iran.” He added that Khamenei is clear on the regime’s decision to strike: “we will be at war with you on all levels: secret, diplomatic, military and other.” Pro-Iranian propagandists in the region, via media and online rushed to warn that this movement is part of Iran’s counter-strike against any attempt to destabilize the regime. Two major tracks emerge from these statements, the Iranian military maneuvers and the capture of British Navy personnel.
1) Iran’s domestic front is putting pressure on the Ahmedinijad regime.
From internal reporting, dissidents and anti-Ahmedinijad forces from various social sectors are practically in slow motion eruption against the authorities. Students, women, workers and political activists have been demonstrating and sometimes clashing with the regime’s security apparatus. Western media didn’t report proportionally on these events over the past few weeks. In addition, ethnic minority areas have been witnessing several incidents, including violence against the “Revolutionary Guards,” including in the Arab and Baluch areas. And last but not least, the defection of a major intelligence-military figure early this month to the West was, according to internal sources, a “massive loss” to the regime and a possible first one in a series.
2) The regime “need” an external clash to crush the domestic challenge.
As in many comparable cases worldwide, when an authoritarian regime is faced with severe internal opposition it attempts to deflect the crisis onto the outside world. Hence, Teheran’s all out campaign against the US and its allies in Iraq, Lebanon and the region is in fact a repositioning of Iran’s shield against the expected rising opposition inside the country. Hence the Khomeinist Mullahs plan seem to be projected as follow:
a. Engage in the diplomatic realm, to project a realist approach worldwide, but refrain from offering real results
b. Continue, along with the Syrian regime, in supporting the “Jihadi” Terror operations (including sectarian ones) inside Iraq
c. Widen the propaganda campaign against the US and its allies via a number of PR companies within the West, to portray Iran as “a victim” of an “upcoming war provoked by the US.”
d. Engage in skirmishes in the Gulf (and possibly in other spots) with US and British elements claiming these action as “defensive,” while planned thoroughly ahead of time.
3) The regime plan is to drag its opponents into a trap
Teheran’s master planners intend to drag the “Coalition” into steps in engagement, at the timing of and in the field of control of Iran’s apparatus. Multiple options and scenarios are projected.
a. British military counter measure takes place, supported by the US. Iran’s regime believe that only “limited” action by the allies is possible, according to their analysis of the domestic constraints inside the two powerful democracies.
b. Tehran moves to a second wave of activities, at its own pace, hoping to draw a higher level of classical counter strikes by US and UK forces. The dosing by Iran’s leadership is expected to stretch the game in time, until the departure of Blair and of the Bush Administration by its political opponents inside the country’s institutions and public debate.
In a short conclusion the “War room” in Tehran has engaged itself in an alley of tactical moves it feels it can control. But the Iranian regime, with all its “political chess” expertise, may find itself in a precarious and risky situation. For while it feel that it can control the tactical battlefield in the region and fuel the propaganda pressure inside the West with its Petro-dollars, it may not be able to contain the internal forces in Iran, because of which it has decided to go on offense.
The Ahmedinijad regime wishes to crumble the international consensus to avoid the financial sanctions: that is true. But as important, if not more, it wants to be able to crush the revolt before it pounds the doors to the Mullahs palaces.
Dr Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington. Author of the newly released The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: ccp on March 24, 2007, 08:12:28 AM
The article makes sense.  Iran has now taken the Brits as hostages.  The Brits mistake was allowing this vessel to be taken to start with.

Perhaps Iran has calculated that the timid US will spend the rest of Bush's and Blair's tenures negotiating the hostages release.  AFter '08 they know the Dems will do nothing while they continue on with their nuclear goals.  As far as I can tell only W. has the guts to stand up to them.  But he doesn't have the political support.  And with an election coming up he won't get it.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on March 24, 2007, 12:44:04 PM
Walid Phares is the man to listen to on Iran, IMHO.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 25, 2007, 04:53:28 AM
Today's NY Times:

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 — The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed Saturday to impose new, more stringent sanctions to press Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and rejoin negotiations over its nuclear program.

All 15 members of the Security Council adopted the sanctions, Resolution 1747, which focus on constraining Iranian arms exports, the state-owned Bank Sepah — already under Treasury Department sanctions — and the Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite military organization separate from the nation’s conventional armed forces.

No surprises were in the resolution, which modestly strengthens largely financial sanctions adopted in December in a first, limited resolution. Senior American officials hailed the new resolution as a significant international rebuke to Iran, and they predicted that the new resolution’s prohibitions on dealings with 15 individuals and 13 organizations would leave Tehran more isolated.

The Iranian representative to the session denounced the action as unlawful and unjustifiable — and vowed it would have no impact on what Tehran describes as a peaceful nuclear energy program.

The Council acted after months of increasing tensions between the United States and Iran, not only over its nuclear program, concerns that many Western and Middle Eastern countries share. The United States in recent weeks has publicly accused Iran of supplying new and powerful explosives to insurgents in Iraq.

And the Council voted one day after naval forces under the command of Revolutionary Guards seized eight British sailors and seven British marines in waters off the coast of Iraq.

In order to assure a unanimous vote that would symbolize united world opinion against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, lengthy negotiations continued through Friday on a series of amendments from three of the Security Council’s nonpermanent members, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar. Their votes were seen as particularly important, because South Africa is a leader of the nonaligned movement, Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation and Qatar is a Gulf neighbor of Iran.

The Security Council representatives of those three nations each expressed deep concerns about the final language of the sanctions resolution, but eventually cast yes votes.

The sanctions package approved Saturday, American officials said, was devised to do more than simply punish Iran for its nuclear program, as was the more limited goal of the sanctions vote in December. The new language was written to rein in what they see as Tehran’s ambitions to become the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf and across the broader Middle East.

“We are trying to force a change in the actions and behavior of the Iranian government,” said R. Nicholas Burns, under secretary of state for political affairs. “And so the sanctions are immediately focused on the nuclear weapons research program, but we also are trying to limit the ability of Iran to be a disruptive and violent factor in Middle East politics.”

The resolution calls for freezing the overseas assets of the 15 Iranian citizens and 13 organizations, some involved in the nation’s nuclear programs and missile development efforts and some associated with the Revolutionary Guard.

That corps and a subordinate military unit, the Quds Force, are not directly involved in Iran’s nuclear program. But the United States and Israel say they have supplied small arms and rockets to Hezbollah and Hamas, labeled by the State Department as terrorist organizations.

American intelligence officers also say they have indications that the guard is linked to new and more powerful improvised explosives planted by insurgent groups in Iraq against American and coalition forces there. “If we can begin to limit the Quds Force, which has been supplying enhanced explosive technology to Iraq that has been used to kill our soldiers, that is a significant step for us,” Mr. Burns said in a telephone interview after the vote.

The new resolution prohibits the sale or transfer of Iranian weapons to any nation or organization, and calls on the nations of the world to “exercise vigilance and restraint” in exporting weapons to Iran. The measure invokes Chapter 7, Article 41, of the United Nations charter, rendering most of the provisions mandatory, but excluding military action to enforce them.

The sanction on Iran’s fourth-largest bank was written to halt its use as a conduit for money supporting Iran’s nuclear program.

(Page 2 of 2)

One decidedly weaker sanctions category in the new resolution calls on, but does not require, nations and international organizations not to enter into new commitments for export credits, grants or loans to Iran except in the case of humanitarian or development projects.

The measure asks the International Atomic Energy Agency to report back within 60 days on whether Iran has suspended its efforts at enriching uranium. If it says Iran has not, further sanctions may be considered. If the agency says Iran has complied, sanctions will be suspended.

The Iranian seat at the horseshoe-shaped table was filled by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. The seat had been reserved for Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but on Friday Iranian officials ignited an exchange of recriminations, saying that the president’s trip had been scuttled by tardy action from the United States government in issuing the visas.

In reply, a State Department spokesman, Tom Casey, said the United States Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, which handles visas for Iranians, had issued all of the required documents by early Friday and in ample time for the visit. It was not possible to independently verify either position.

After the vote, the Iranian foreign minister made a long and defiant rebuttal to the Security Council, dismissing the sanctions as “unlawful, unnecessary and unjustifiable” and said they would have no effect.

“Iran does not seek confrontation nor does it want anything beyond its inalienable rights,” Mr. Mottaki said. “I can assure you that pressure and intimidation will not change Iranian policy.”

He said that suspension of the Iranian nuclear program “is neither an option nor a solution,” and that it was “a gross violation” of the United Nations charter to use sanctions in an effort to halt what he contended was a peaceful nuclear energy program.

The resolution included amended language that stressed the importance of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East — without reference to Israel, a close American ally widely believed to have nuclear weapons — and emphasized the importance of the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency in nonproliferation efforts and safeguarding nuclear materials.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 27, 2007, 07:01:18 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Another Step in the U.S.-Iranian Covert War

The diplomatic row over the Iranian seizure of 15 British servicemen and marines entered its fourth day Monday, with Iran saying the Britons are "fit and well" and being held at a secret location until the Iranians can determine through interrogation whether their alleged entry into Iranian waters was intentional.

The U.S. and British governments say the British personnel were intercepted by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) naval forces March 23 after completing a search of a civilian vessel on the Iraqi side of the 120-mile Shatt al-Arab waterway leading to the Persian Gulf. The Iranian government, however, says the British servicemen admitted to illegally entering Iranian territory, and that it has the satellite tracking images to prove the "blatant aggression into Iranian territorial waters."

Iran has a track record of stirring up diplomatic spats in the oil-rich Persian Gulf in order to reassert its political and military relevance, as it did in June 2004 when it seized three British patrol boats in the Shatt al-Arab. At that time, the Iranian nuclear controversy was gaining steam as Washington attempted to transfer the issue to the U.N. Security Council while building a new government in Baghdad without consulting Iran.

This latest incident occurred a day ahead of the widely expected unanimous U.N. Security Council vote to tighten sanctions against Iran. Included in the resolution is a clause freezing the assets of 28 people and organizations ostensibly involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Many of them belong to the elite IRGC and Quds Force (a paramilitary arm of the IRGC), which have been heavily involved in fueling the Iraq insurgency. The IRGC is evidently displeased with the financial hit, as well as the January seizure of five Iranians -- including IRGC and Quds Force members -- in a U.S. raid in Arbil. IRGC weekly newspaper Subhi Sadek expressed this outrage, saying the IRGC has "the ability to capture a bunch of blue-eyed, blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks."

There are a number of reasons behind the IRGC's recent seizure of the British servicemen, but there could be more to this diplomatic row than is apparent.

While Iran and the United States have kept the media busy with diplomatic maneuverings over Iraq and threats linked to the Iranian nuclear program, Iran has been entangled in an intense covert intelligence war with the West. As part of this fight, the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist by Israel's Mossad was met a few weeks later -- as expected -- with a retaliatory strike in Paris against David Dahan, head of the Israeli Defense Ministry Mission to Europe. Though Dahan's death was treated as a suicide, intelligence suggests Dahan was singled out by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) in a tit-for-tat strike.

Several weeks ago, Ali Reza Asghari, a former Iranian deputy defense minister and Pasdaran commander defected while traveling in Turkey and was turned over to the U.S. government. Asghari is undoubtedly a valuable asset for Western intelligence agencies, who likely hope to use him to dissect the Iranian defense establishment -- representing a significant threat to Iran's national security. In the course of Asghari's debriefing, he undoubtedly was grilled on his knowledge of any suspected U.S. agents operating in Iran in order to determine if any agents have been or are close to being exposed by Iranian security agencies.

With this in mind, there have been recent indications from U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources that the British MI6 was engaged in an operation to extract one of its agents from Iran, but a leak tipped MOIS off to the plan. According to an unconfirmed source, the IRGC nabbed the British personnel, as well as the agent, to use as a bargaining chip in order to secure the release of the five detained Iranians. If these negotiations go poorly for Iran, the Britons could very well be tried for espionage.

The motive behind the seizure of the British servicemen is still unclear, but the operation likely was planned well in advance by key figures within the IRGC. At this point, the Iranians are watching their backs closely, and are willing to take the political risk of flaring up another diplomatic dispute in order to plug further intelligence leaks.
Title: French private sector perfidy
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 29, 2007, 04:31:53 PM

Total Recall
A French oil giant's deals with a rogue regime--this time in Iran.

Thursday, March 29, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Don't stop us if you've heard this one: French oil giant Total SA is being investigated for illicit dealings with a rogue regime in the Middle East. This time it's Iran, but maybe you recall its experience with another dictator and something called Oil for Food.

A French judge is investigating bribes that Total executives allegedly paid Iranian officials to secure business in the Islamic Republic. Last week, the judge issued preliminary charges of abuse of company funds and corruption of foreign agents against Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie. The company and Mr. de Margerie deny any wrongdoing, but the Total experience is all too typical of the way European firms cut deals with dictators while their own governments provide political cover.

Meanwhile, the same French prosecutor continues to investigate Total for alleged kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein in return for Iraqi oil. In his report on Oil for Food corruption, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found that Total, through intermediaries, had purchased some of the 11 million barrels of oil that former Iraqi officials claim was allocated to French Senator Charles Pasqua in thanks for his support of Saddam's Iraq. Total and Mr. Pasqua also deny any wrongdoing.

However the probes play out, Total's business with Tehran is probably a violation of the U.S. 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. The Clinton Administration thought so as far back as early 1998, when crude oil futures were selling for a quarter of the current price, and Tehran was desperate for cash to finance Hezbollah and, as we later learned, its nuclear program.
"We believe that transactions that substantially enhance Iran's ability to acquire the revenues necessary to acquire missile technology and weapons of mass destruction should not be in any way made easier," Defense Secretary William Cohen argued at the time. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was even more blunt: "As far as the French are concerned, I must say it passes my understanding why there is no realization that pumping money into the system of Iran is not helpful to the rest of us."

But after French carping and trade threats by the European Union, President Clinton waived sanctions on Total, Russia's Gazprom and Malaysia's Petronas for the $2 billion natural-gas deal they had inked with the mullahs in 1997. That waiver set an informal precedent, as both the Clinton and Bush Administrations have stayed silent as companies from Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Britain, Norway, Sweden, South Korea and Japan have signed energy deals with Iran worth some $11.5 billion, as the nearby table shows.

That patience may be ending now that Iran is kidnapping British sailors, supplying bombs that kill Americans in Iraq, and defying U.N. orders to stop enriching uranium. The Bush Administration is pressing financial sanctions against Iran especially hard, but pressure is building on Capitol Hill for firmer action. Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg is talking about more severe penalties for U.S. firms that do business with states that sponsor terrorism, and stricter sanctions on the U.S. interests of foreign companies could be in the cards as well.

We've always thought sanctions are a blunt instrument, and they can backfire when used on the wrong target. It's also true that U.S. sanctions wouldn't hurt Total in the short term; the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act is limited to penalties for companies' U.S. businesses, and the bulk of Total's activities are in Europe and Latin America. But against a regime such as Iran's--which is now the biggest threat to world security--sanctions are also a form of diplomatic pressure short of the military action that European governments claim to want to avoid at all costs. Total executives and European politicians are fooling themselves if they think U.S. pressure for action against Iran will stop once the Bush Administration leaves power.
There's some debate in France about why prosecutors are suddenly showing so much interest in what is by now a 10-year-old case. Perhaps allies of Jacques Chirac have less political cover as his presidency winds down, or maybe big companies are no longer seen as untouchable on the Continent after a series of corporate scandals. Or it could be that investigative judge Philippe Courroye is anxious to close out his current docket before his scheduled transfer to another court. Whatever the reason, it's good to see someone in Paris take corrupt dealings with dictators seriously.

In Iraq 10 years ago, Total and its political protectors canoodled with Saddam and propped him up until the U.S. decided it had no choice but to act against him. Europe shouldn't make the same mistake in Iran.
Title: How to Attack
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 30, 2007, 08:36:31 AM
From today's WSJ, one AF General's ideas on how we could attack Iran


Iran Escalates
March 30, 2007; Page A15

President Reagan once famously quipped that his strategy in confronting the Soviet Union was "We win, they lose." Today, we need a similarly clear strategy to confront Iran, if we are to successfully counter its aim to drive the U.S. from the Middle East and -- as we see with the 15 British sailors the Iranians have taken hostage -- attempts to intimidate Western powers into inaction.

That strategy begins not with the Kabuki dance now underway at the United Nations. Turtle Bay is usually, and seems destined to be again in this case, a diplomatic sideshow meant more to distract us than to disarm a rogue regime.

While we dither the Iranians will acquire nuclear weapons, give support to our enemies in Iraq and undermine our credibility with our European allies. We need to demonstrate now that there are viable military options in dealing with a rogue regime in Tehran and that not all of those options will leave us embroiled in a shooting war with yet another large, sprawling nation in the Middle East.

I believe that our options for dealing with Iran are more numerous and could be more productive than many Washington policy makers have heretofore argued. Let us remember that Iran is a very diverse nation whose population is only 51% Persian. The rest is Azari (24%), Kurdish (10%) and a mix of other ethnic minorities including Turkman, Arab and others. This is a rich environment for unrest and one reason why there were an estimated 4,300 protest demonstrations in 2005 alone. In recent weeks, we may have benefited from another form of protest. Former Iranian deputy defense minister Ali Reza Asgari appears to have used a trip to Turkey to defect with his family. If he is now talking to Western intelligence officials, we'll soon know a lot more about the inner workings of the Iranian regime.

And the Middle East itself is no monolithic bloc of support for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel, of course, is a natural ally in gaining intelligence and lining up support against the Iranian regime. But Iran is bent on destabilizing and dominating the Arabian Peninsula from Lebanon through Gaza into Iraq with a stopover in Bahrain. That makes Saudi Arabia as well as Jordan potentially strong -- if not overt -- allies in countering Iranian influence. The situation has gotten so serious that King Abdullah of Jordan called it a Shia crescent sweeping across the Arabian Peninsula and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia summoned Vice President Cheney to Riyadh last fall.

If we demonstrate that we are sufficiently serious in countering Iran, we could form a coalition of the willing with Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf States, Turkey, Australia and those European allies with the courage to consider what their future will look like with a nuclear-armed Iran within missile range. No more denial or hoping Iran will negotiate their nuclear weapons development away. The criteria for joining this coalition would be to join in making the following demands of Iran: Stop developing fissile material, submit to unambiguous International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, turn over all al Qaeda operatives within your borders and stop supporting Hezbollah.

The hard part, of course, of forming any meaningful coalition is the consequences of noncompliance. And this case is no different. The obvious punishment for a defiant Iran could be an air strike that aims to destroy its nuclear development facilities and overt support for Iranians working to overthrow their government. This is where the discussion of taking stringent actions against Iran usually breaks down. Few people believe Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern nations would join a coalition that carried out a military strike and there is little reason to believe many European nations would either.

This is where President Reagan in confronting the Soviets is instructive. The Gipper was elected in 1980 at a time when it appeared inevitable that the Soviet Union would dominate world affairs and just as inevitably that the U.S. was unable to do anything about it short of waging a bloody, military campaign that would have few allies in fighting and not every chance of success. In the end, as they say, Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot.

We have similar options now. One of which is to enact drastic economic sanctions that, oddly, would involve forcing a gasoline crisis in Iran. Tehran is kept afloat on oil revenues, but it has done so at the expense of its oil industry. While it exports large quantities of crude oil, Iran imports 40% of its domestically consumed gasoline, and each gallon at the pump is heavily subsidized. Shutting off or even restricting the supply of gasoline flowing into the country would put the regime in a crunch and drive up public discontent without creating a corresponding humanitarian crisis.

We could also apply minimal military pressure without straining our relations with our allies. To date Iran is responsible for killing more than 200 American soldiers and wounding over 635 through the introduction of what the U.S. military calls Explosively Formed Penetrators. These EFPs are shaped charges specifically designed to pierce the hulls of our armored vehicles and are much deadlier than what al Qaeda and run-of-the-mill insurgents could have come up with on their own in Iraq. Enough is enough. We could develop a tit-for-tat strategy for each EFP that is detonated in Iraq that could target nuclear support facilities or Iranian leadership or other targets calculated to put heat on the regime without endangering civilians. Many of these responses may be written off as mere happenstance or accidents in a dangerous part of the world. But even as Iran becomes the unluckiest country in the world, our allies in the region could hardly blame us for a calculated response.

The U.S. can also assemble a large-scale force capable of an air offensive. This would serve a similar role to Reagan's military buildup, forcing the Soviets into an arms race that they ultimately couldn't maintain. The immediate strike force could be composed of some 75 stealth attack aircraft -- B2s, F117s and the F22s -- and some 250 nonstealth F15s, F16s, B52s, B1s and three carrier battle groups. These carrier battle groups are composed of over 120 F18s and cruise missiles galore. We also have over 750 UAVs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in Iraq today. There is more than enough to support a campaign aimed at demonstrating to the Iranian regime that with 48 hours we could hit its nuclear development facilities, command and control facilities, integrated air defenses, Air Force and Navy units and the Shahab 3 missiles using over 2,500 aim points.

Back in Washington, Congress also needs to exercise its responsibility and fund missile defenses, bunker busters and other technologies specifically designed to counter the Iranian regime. Tehran has the world scrambling to respond as it sets about assembling a nuclear weapon that may be more advanced than Fat Man and Little Boy, but which is still far less technologically advanced than the weapons systems we trust 20-somethings to operate every day in our military. Forcing Iran to expend its resources to keep pace with our technological advances is central to any strategy of defeating them.

We don't need to drop leaflets from the air spelling it out for the regime in Tehran that, if we were to carry out an air campaign, it would probably unleash a new Iranian revolution. But the leadership in Iran has to first come to understand that we neither fear a Hezbollah uprising over such a strike -- as Hezbollah is already carrying out terrorist attacks, we'd welcome an open fight on our terms -- nor would we need the main-line coalition ground forces we used in Iraq. Instead, we could simply use the Afghan model of precision airpower supporting covert and indigenous forces.

We're the United States of America. We don't threaten any nation. What Iran must come to realize -- and we must now decide for ourselves -- is that we are in this confrontation to win it.

Lt. Gen. McInerny is retired assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force and Fox News military analyst.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 10, 2007, 04:00:56 PM : Iranian Nukes Not For Sale

The Islamic Republic of Iran celebrated its first national "Nuclear Technology Day" on Monday. The celebration began at 9 a.m. local time, when school bells across the country rang in unison, congratulatory text messages from the government were sent out to millions of mobile phone users, U.S. and Israeli flags went up in flames and a massive cake colored to resemble yellowcake was devoured. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led the festivities at the country's enrichment facility at Natanz, where he boldly announced that Iran "has joined the nuclear club of nations and can produce nuclear fuel on an industrial scale.''

Let us not forget that Ahmadinejad also announced a year ago that Iran had joined the nuclear club by running two cascades of 164 centrifuges. So, what's the news in this latest statement?

Producing nuclear fuel on an industrial scale that would place Iran well on its way to a uranium-based weapons program would involve something on the order of 3,000 defect-free centrifuges enriching to around 90 percent of the fissile isotope of uranium, up from the 3.5 percent that Iran is likely capable of in small amounts today. When asked if Iran had started injecting gas into 3,000 centrifuges being set up at the Natanz facility, National Security Chief Ali Larijani vaguely said, "Yes we have injected gas." The deputy chief of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saidi, offered a bit more clarification when he denied they had reached the 3,000-centrifuge stage and said, "We have so far been dealing with the completion of two cascades of 164 centrifuges as a pilot stage and passing this phase means industrialization of uranium enrichment." Claiming industrialization is still quite a stretch when one factors in the crude quality of Iran's centrifuges and the approximately 3,000 functional centrifuges needed for a rudimentary industrial capacity -- at the very least.

The Iranians tend to promote their nuclear program one step ahead of what they have actually achieved. That is, the nuclear announcement a year ago was likely indicative of what the Iranian scientists had achieved in a test run, and Monday's announcement is the culmination of experiments conducted over the past year that have brought Iran to a stage at which its perfected enrichment is around 3 percent to 5 percent with two cascades of 164 centrifuges -- still well below the needed threshold for a solid weapons program, much less a power program that would take dozens of times more.

Putting the techno-babble aside, it is important to examine the purpose of Iran's nuclear program in the context of the ongoing negotiations between Washington and Tehran over Iraq. Though Ahmadinejad has been talking about a big announcement since early February, it appears that the declaration of Nuclear Technology Day came at a politically convenient time for the Iranians when viewed in the context of the Iraq negotiations.

Iran and the United States are both aggressively moving to try to gain the upper hand in these talks. The Iranians played their most recent hand, the British detainee incident, quite skillfully. In what was seen as a risky maneuver, Iran in one swoop called the U.S. and British bluff that military force is a viable option against Iran, humiliated the British government through the public confessions from the detainees and, finally, demonstrated that it can effectively negotiate and deliver -- just as it could in a potential Iraq deal. Though the British detainee incident helped strengthen Iran's bargaining position, it provided Iran with only a minor advance. The United States did not waste time in making its next move with a new military offensive called Operation Black Eagle against Iran's Shiite militant allies in the town of Ad Diwaniyeh south of Baghdad, Iraq.

This is why Iran relies heavily on the nuclear card in these negotiations. When Iranian dissidents leaked details of Iran's covert nuclear program in 2002, Iran's chances of achieving full nuclear capability without facing a direct threat from Israel or the United States were severely crippled. When Washington made clear that it did not feel the need to negotiate with Iran over the future of Iraq in the spring of 2003 -- when the war was still in its early stages and the United States was still denying a Sunni insurgency existed -- Iran made the strategic decision to ratchet up the nuclear threat and utilize its militant assets throughout the region to bring Washington back to the negotiating table on Iran's terms.

Though this process is still ongoing, the United States and Iran have now reached a level in the Iraq standoff in which both sides realize they need to deal with each other to avoid their worst-case scenarios in Iraq. This mutual dependence also has given Iran the confidence that its nuclear program need not be viewed solely as a bargaining chip by the United States, and instead must become part of any deal Washington wants on Iraq. In other words, Iran is gambling that a final deal over Iraq will not require an Iranian capitulation on its nukes. Even if Iran agrees to inspections of its nuclear facilities or a cap on a certain level of enrichment, the clerical regime is likely calculating that these guarantees can be manipulated down the road for Iran to reactivate its program without much trouble.

This could be why Larijani announced on Sunday that Iran is now ready to "begin real negotiations" over its nuclear program, signaling that the Islamic Republic has reached a technological level that is advanced enough to put it on the path toward a weapons program, but not threatening enough to require pre-emptive military action -- a nice, cushy spot for negotiations.

The United States, on the other hand, is unlikely feeling pressured enough to grant the Iranians their nuclear wish. Already Washington has made an effort to separate the nuclear and Iraq issue in order to deprive Iran of one of its key bargaining tools. Washington also is not about to go against the interests of Israel, Russia and other invested parties in the dispute that do not wish to see the emergence of a nuclear-capable Iran.

Even so, Iran is making one thing very clear in this stage of the Iraq negotiations: Iranian nukes are not for sale.
Title: Iran gets feisty with the Russians
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 11, 2007, 07:12:49 AM
1137 GMT -- RUSSIA, IRAN -- Iranian military exercises near its Bushehr nuclear power plant April 6 have raised tensions around the project, Interfax reported April 11, citing a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman. Russia has expressed its surprise over the air defense practice and has asked Tehran to inform Russia in advance about plans to hold military exercises in the future.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 20, 2007, 09:00:32 AM
by Amir Taheri
Gulf News
April 18, 2007
With war drums beating louder, senior military commanders in Tehran miss few opportunities to warn the government against plunging the country into an unequal fight with the United States and its allies.

One such warning came last month from the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard (IRCG) General Rahim Safavi.

In an unusually frank assessment of the situation, he told an audience of guardsmen that the country lacked the necessary means to defend its extensive land and sea borders. He insisted that everything be done to avoid an "unhappy episode".

In Tehran's military circles, the phrase "unhappy episode" is a codeword for the only direct military clash that has so far taken place between the Islamic Republic and the United States.

The clash came on April 18, 1988, exactly 19 years ago today.

At the time, the Islamic Republic censored all news of the event so that most Iranians do not even know that it happened at all. For their part, the Americans also "managed" the flow of information about the clash to prevent its strategic importance from becoming apparent at the time.

Nevertheless, the clash between the navy of the Islamic Republic and a US naval task force led by the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, was subsequently classed as one of the five naval battles of historic importance that established American sup-remacy at sea.


The background to the clash was rather complicated.

At the time, the Islamic Republic was at war against Iraq under Saddam Hussain, rejecting United Nations pleas for a ceasefire.

Towards the end of 1987, the Islamic Republic started firing on Kuwaiti oil tankers passing through the Gulf on the grounds that Arab oil money fuelled Saddam's war machine. Weeks of efforts by the UN, the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), and the nonaligned bloc to persuade Tehran to stop attacking Kuwaiti tankers produced no results.

It was then that President Ronald Reagan decided to put the Kuwaiti tankers under the US flag and escort them through the waterway.

The Islamic Republic retaliated by mining some of the shipping lanes in the waterway. On April 14, 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts struck a mine and was seriously damaged. It was towed to Dubai where it arrived two days later.

The following day experts established that the mine had been made in Iran and placed by the IRCG.

Within hours, President Ronald Reagan ordered the US task force to retaliate. The IRCG responded by firing missiles at US vessels without inflicting any harm.

The US task force seized the opportunity to unleash its superior firepower to virtually break the Iranian navy.

The Americans lost two men, the crew of a helicopter that came down in an accident far from the battle.

The IRCG lost 87 men and over 300 wounded. Later, the Islamic Republic filed a suit against the US at the International Court at The Hague claiming losses amounting to several billion dollars. (The court rejected Tehran's suit in November 2003.)

The battle's effect in Tehran was immediate.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then the leader of the Islamic Republic, was initially inclined to retaliate by ordering Hezbollah to carry out suicide attacks against American and other Western interests.

However, he was persuaded by Hashemi Rafsanjani, then the ayatollah's closest aide, to take a deep breath and maintain a low profile. There was to be no retaliation. The remaining vessels of the Iranian navy were ordered to clear their movements with the US task force in advance to avoid any misunderstanding.

The battle

The battle, nicknamed by the US "Operation Praying Mantis", was followed in July by a tragic accident when the USS Vincennes shot down an Iran Air jetliner by mistake, killing all 290 passengers and crew.

Khomeini interpreted the accident as a deliberate escalation by the US and feared that his regime was in danger. Rafsanjani and other advisers used that fear to persuade the ayatollah to end the war with Iraq, something he had adamantly refused for eight years.

A broken Khomeini appeared on TV to announce that he was "drinking the chalice of poison" by accepting a UN-ordered ceasefire. He was no longer going to Karbala on his way to Jerusalem.

In his memoirs, Rafsanjani makes it clear that without the disastrous naval battle and the downing of the Iran Air jet, Khomeini would not have agreed to end a war that had already claimed a million Iranian and Iraqi lives.

The reason was that Khomeini was leader of a regime that lacked adequate mechanisms for self-restraint. He was the driver of a vehicle with no clutch or reverse-gear, let alone a brake, and thus was doomed to speed ahead until it hit something hard.

Interestingly, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used a similar image recently when he committed the regime to a no-compromise position on the nuclear issue. "This train has no reverse-gear and no brakes," he said.

Khomeini could have ended the war with Iraq years earlier, obtaining decent terms for Iran. He did not because the extremist nature of his regime made it impossible to even contemplate the fact that realism, prudence and compromise are key elements of good leadership.

Khomeini could not have ended the war. He needed Reagan to do it for him. If the Islamic Republic is a train without a reverse-gear and brakes, it does not need a conductor. It could race ahead until it hits something hard on its way.

Amir Taheri is an Iranian writer based in Europe
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 02, 2007, 03:43:50 PM
I wonder what lies underneath this cryptic paragraph?

IRAN: Former Iranian nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian is being detained on charges of espionage, Fars News Agency reported. Earlier reports did not indicate what charges had been brought against him. Mousavian was reportedly taken from his home April 30.
Title: Khuzestan wants to separate
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 05, 2007, 05:07:48 PM

IRAN: Iranian Arabs in the southwestern province of Khuzestan have expressed a desire to separate from Iran, Al Jazeera reported. National Liberation Movement of Ahwaz head Tahir Aal Sayyed Nima said a lack of schools in villages and a ban on Arabic in schools and government institutions is an attempt "to assassinate our Arab identity" and has led to separatist goals.
Title: Iran cracks down
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 24, 2007, 06:14:35 AM
NY Times

Iran is in the throes of one of its most ferocious crackdowns on dissent in years, with the government focusing on labor leaders, universities, the press, women’s rights advocates, a former nuclear negotiator and Iranian-Americans, three of whom have been in prison for more than six weeks.

The shift is occurring against the backdrop of an economy so stressed that although Iran is the world’s second-largest oil exporter, it is on the verge of rationing gasoline. At the same time, the nuclear standoff with the West threatens to bring new sanctions.

The hard-line administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, analysts say, faces rising pressure for failing to deliver on promises of greater prosperity from soaring oil revenue. It has been using American support for a change in government as well as a possible military attack as a pretext to hound his opposition and its sympathizers.

Some analysts describe it as a “cultural revolution,” an attempt to roll back the clock to the time of the 1979 revolution, when the newly formed Islamic Republic combined religious zeal and anti-imperialist rhetoric to try to assert itself as a regional leader.

Equally noteworthy is how little has been permitted to be discussed in the Iranian news media. Instead, attention has been strategically focused on Mr. Ahmadinejad’s political enemies, like the former president, Mohammad Khatami, and the controversy over whether he violated Islamic morals by deliberately shaking hands with an unfamiliar woman after he gave a speech in Rome.

Mr. Khatami, the lost hope of Iran’s reform movement, felt compelled to rebut the accusation because such a handshake is religiously suspect, but contended that the crowd seeking to congratulate him for his speech was so tumultuous that he could not distinguish between the hands of men and women. Naturally a video clip emerged, showing the cleric in his typical gregarious style bounding over to the first woman who addressed him on the orderly sidewalk, shaking her hand and chatting amicably.

The dispute over the handshake occurred during a particularly fierce round of the factional fighting that has hamstrung the country since the 1979 revolution. Far more harsh examples abound.

Young men wearing T-shirts deemed too tight or haircuts seen as too Western have been paraded bleeding through Tehran’s streets by uniformed police officers who force them to suck on plastic jerrycans, a toilet item Iranians use to wash their bottoms. In case anyone misses the point, it is the official news agency Fars distributing the pictures of what it calls “riffraff.” Far bloodier photographs are circulating on blogs and on the Internet.

The country’s police chief boasted that 150,000 people — a number far larger than usual — were detained in the annual spring sweep against any clothing considered not Islamic. More than 30 women’s rights advocates were arrested in one day in March, according to Human Rights Watch, five of whom have since been sentenced to prison terms of up to four years. They were charged with endangering national security for organizing an Internet campaign to collect more than a million signatures supporting the removal of all laws that discriminate against women.

Eight student leaders at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University, the site of one of the few public protests against Mr. Ahmadinejad, disappeared into Evin Prison starting in early May. Student newspapers had published articles suggesting that no humans were infallible, including the Prophet Muhammad and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The National Security Council sent a stern three-page warning to all the country’s newspaper editors detailing banned topics, including the rise in gasoline prices or other economic woes like possible new international sanctions, negotiations with the United States over the future of Iraq, civil society movements and the Iranian-American arrests.

The entire campaign is “a strong message by Ahmadinejad’s government, security and intelligence forces that they are in control of the domestic situation,” said Hadi Ghaemi, an Iran analyst for Human Rights Watch. “But it’s really a sign of weakness and insecurity.”

At least three prominent nongovernment organizations that pushed for broader legal rights or civil society have been shuttered outright, while hundreds more have been forced underground. A recent article on the Baztab Web site said that about 8,000 nongovernment organizations were in jeopardy, forced to prove their innocence, basically because the government suspects all of them of being potential conduits for some $75 million the United States has earmarked to promote a change in government.

Professors have been warned against attending overseas conferences or having any contact with foreign governments, lest they be recruited as spies. The Iranian-Americans are all being detained basically on the grounds that they were either recruiting or somehow abetting an American attempt to achieve a “velvet revolution” in Iran.

Page 2 of 2)

Analysts trace the broadening crackdown to a March speech by Ayatollah Khamenei, whose pronouncements carry the weight of law. He warned that no one should damage national unity when the West was waging psychological war on Iran. The country has been under fire, particularly from the United States, which accuses it of trying to develop nuclear weapons and fomenting violence in Iraq.

President Ahmadinejad and other senior officials have dismissed all the criticism as carping. The president blames the previous administration for inflation or calls it media exaggeration, while Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Said Mortazavi, said Iranians who oppose the Islamic Republic look for an excuse to criticize it.

After a meeting of senior police and judiciary officials in Tehran on June 19 to review what was described as “the public security drive,” the Iranian Labor News Agency quoted Mr. Mortazavi as saying that if the state did not protect public security, then “louts” and criminals “would be safe in society.

The three Iranian-Americans are being held in the notorious Section 209 of Evin Prison, the wing controlled by the Intelligence Ministry, and have been denied visits by their lawyers or relatives. Iran recognizes only their Iranian nationality and has dismissed any diplomatic efforts to intervene. A rally to demand their release is set for Wednesday outside the United Nations.

The three are Haleh Esfandiari, the director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Kian Tajbakhsh, an urban planning consultant with the Open Society Institute; and Ali Shakeri, of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, Irvine. A fourth, Parnaz Azima, a journalist who works for Radio Farda, an American-financed station based in Europe, has been barred from leaving the country.

“People don’t want to come to conferences, they don’t even want to talk on the phone,” said Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University. “The regime has created an atmosphere of absolute terror.”

To the political crackdown, Mr. Ahmadinejad adds a messianic fervor, Mr. Milani noted, telling students in Qom this month that the Muslim savior would soon return.

The appeal of such a message may be limited, however. Iran’s sophisticated middle class wants to be connected to the world, and grumbles that the country’s only friends are Syria, Belarus, Venezuela and Cuba. But it might play well with Mr. Ahmadinejad’s main constituency.

“They are the poor, the rural,” said Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations. “They don’t travel abroad, they don’t go to conferences. He is trying to undermine the social and political position of his rivals in order to consolidate his own people.”

Most ascribe Mr. Ahmadinejad’s motives to blocking what could become a formidable alliance between the camps of Mr. Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani, both former presidents. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for early next year, and the next presidential vote in 2009.

“Having to face a single pragmatic conservative and reform block is extremely threatening,” Mr. Nasr said, hence the intimidation of all possible supporters.

Not that everyone has been intimidated. More than 50 leading economists published a harshly worded, open letter to the president saying his policies were bringing economic ruin. High unemployment persists, there has been little foreign investment and inflation is galloping, with gasoline alone jumping 25 percent this spring.

Gasoline rationing is expected within a month, with consumers so anxious about it, reported the Web site Ruz, financed by the Dutch government, that skirmishes broke out in long lines at some pumps on June 17.

Iran can prove a difficult country to separate into black and white. Amid all the recent oppression, for example, last week the public stoning of a couple — the punishment for adultery — was called off. Women’s rights advocates had been agitating against it.

Also, two recent movies touched off controversy as too racy. One depicted an extramarital affair, and the hero of the second was an abortion doctor who drank and gambled, and yet was so beloved of the patients he had seduced that they sent him bouquets on his wedding night.

In an attempt to deflect criticism that its standards had grown loose, the Ministry of Islamic Guidance, which vets all books, movies and gallery exhibits, issued a statement noting that both scripts had been approved under the former administration of Mr. Khatami.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on June 25, 2007, 04:19:38 PM

Where are the protests? Where are the outraged leftists? Where is the mainstream media coverage?
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on June 25, 2007, 05:02:47 PM

Iranian forces crossed Iraqi border: report   

Jun 25 07:23 PM US/Eastern

Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces have been spotted by British troops crossing the border into southern Iraq, The Sun tabloid reported on Tuesday.
Britain's defence ministry would not confirm or deny the report, with a spokesman declining to comment on "intelligence matters".

An unidentified intelligence source told the tabloid: "It is an extremely alarming development and raises the stakes considerably. In effect, it means we are in a full on war with Iran -- but nobody has officially declared it."

"We have hard proof that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have crossed the border to attack us. It is very hard for us to strike back. All we can do is try to defend ourselves. We are badly on the back foot."

The Sun said that radar sightings of Iranian helicopters crossing into the Iraqi desert were confirmed to it by very senior military sources.

In response to the report, a British defence ministry spokesman said: "There is evidence that explosive devices used against our troops in southern Iraq originated in Iran."

"Any Iranian link to armed militias in Iraq either through weapons supply, training or funding are unacceptable."

Britain has about 7,100 soldiers in Iraq, most of whom are based in the southern city of Basra and surrounding areas, though the government has pledged to reduce that to between 5,000 and 5,500 this year.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 27, 2007, 11:08:59 PM
Iran: Is Fuel Rationing a Spark in a Powder Keg?

Iranians reportedly rioted June 27 over the government's move to engage in fuel rationing. Given Iran's lack of refining capabilities, Tehran is trying to control public gasoline consumption. The move, which at this stage is being implemented in a controlled fashion, is highly risky since it could lead to greater social and political unrest.


As many as 50 gasoline stations were reportedly torched early June 27 in Iran as angry citizens protested fuel rationing measures. There are additional unconfirmed reports that gasoline stations in several other cities across the country were also burned. Elsewhere, protesters reportedly blocked the main highway in Tehran, and clashes were said to have led to at least three deaths.

This unrest came in the 24 hours after the government -- in an effort to curb the public's gasoline consumption -- imposed a system of fuel rationing that allows consumers 26.4 gallons per month (15.8 gallons if they use compressed natural gas). A long and intense back-and-forth has been taking place between Iran's parliament, which wanted to raise prices, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration, which favored rationing for fear of increasing inflation, already at 17 percent. In the end, the government did a bit of both. On May 22, a 25 percent hike was introduced, setting the new price at roughly 42 cents per gallon, followed by rationing, which is being instituted via a smart card system.

The reasons for the price hike and rations are rooted in Iran's chronic lack of refining facilities. Though Iran is a major crude oil exporter, it must import 7.9 million gallons of gasoline per day to meet demand. In 2006, Iran spent some $5 billion on gasoline imports from some 16 countries, with most coming from the United Arab Emirates. The current budget has an allocation of $2.5 billion. The difference in the figures from last year and this year has led to a situation in which, according to National Iranian Oil Co. International Affairs Director Hojjatollah Ghanimifard, Tehran can afford gasoline supplies until roughly the middle of August, while the current fiscal year ends in March 2008.

The government will be forced to revise its rationing and import policies based on the results of the current rationing system, which is more or less a pilot program, because Tehran wants to cut down on its multibillion-dollar annual fuel import expenditures. The idea is to allocate money away from subsidized fuel and toward infrastructure projects.

Tehran is also trying to counter the rising demand for fuel, which has been growing at 10 percent annually. Moreover, the decision also factors in the uncertainty surrounding Iran's international position; additional sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program could put the clerical regime in even more of a crunch. The rationing also allows Iran's pragmatic conservatives, led by Expediency Council head Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to weaken the ultraconservatives, led by Ahmadinejad, by fueling public dissatisfaction with the president, in hopes that it could eventually lead to his exit from the political scene. The maverick leader is increasingly viewed as a liability in terms of domestic politics, and especially on the foreign policy front.

Actual rationale notwithstanding, the move is very risky because there is no such thing as managed chaos. The unrest generated by the fuel rationing could spiral out of control and threaten the entire system -- not just the ultraconservative administration. It is true that the Islamic republic has proven to be resilient since it was founded more than 28 years ago, and the clerical regime has managed to contain opposition forces so that none poses a challenge to the state. But tampering with public need for fuel could create the kind of unrest capable of seriously wounding the regime, especially at a time when it is playing a high-stakes game with the United States over Iraq and pursuing a controversial nuclear program.

Considering that Iran is in the middle of negotiations with Washington, this rationing policy could reveal Iranian vulnerability, which Washington might use as leverage against Tehran. Iran would not be engaging in such a move unless it was really financially pressed into doing so.

Ultimately, the regime hopes the negotiations over Iraq and its nuclear program will allow it to come out from underneath international sanctions, which will allow Tehran to acquire refining capabilities and reap other economic benefits. But until that happens, the Iranians are walking on thin ice.
Title: Iran out of Gas
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 30, 2007, 04:04:24 AM
A bit of a different take on the situation in Iran from an investment newsletter:

by John Mauldin
June 29, 2007   
In this issue:
Iran Out of Gas
When an Enemy Is Self-Destructing, Stand Aside
, , ,

Iran Out of Gas

But before we touch on the credit world, I want to briefly look at a development in the oil markets which I find intriguing. Dr. Woody Brock, in a recent paper on oil prices, wrote a rather interesting sentence, to wit, that Iran would not have net oil to export in 2014. I found that rather remarkable. Woody is very serious and sober-minded even for an economist, not given to rash analysis, but this was certainly a new idea to me. I knew they were importing most of their gasoline, as they do not have a great deal of refining capacity. As it turns out, there is much more to the story.

I have said for years that I expect Iran to be the new friend of the US sometime next decade, as the regime is not popular and the country is growing younger. (Think China, once an implacable enemy.) I thought that the impetus would be the lack of freedom and knowledge of how the world is better off coming from the internet, but it turns out that it may be a desire for more freedom combined with economic problems which help bring about regime change, much as in Russia last century.

How could a country with the third (or second, depending on which source you quote) largest oil reserves in the world not be churning out ever more black gold? The answer, as it almost always is for such problems, turns out to be governmental and not economic in nature. Let's start out with a few facts.

Oil provides more than 70% of the revenues of the government of Iran. The rise in oil prices has been a bonanza for the regime, allowing them to subsidize all sorts of welfare programs at home and mischief abroad. And one of the chief subsidies is gasoline prices.

Gasoline costs about $.34 cents a gallon in Iran, or 9 cents a liter. You can fill up your Honda Civic for $4.49. In the US it costs almost $40 (The price has risen since the chart below was made). In neighboring Turkey it costs almost $95. Look at the two charts below from the recent Foreign Policy Magazine. Notice that Iran is spending 38% of its national budget (almost 15% of GDP!) on gasoline subsidies!

Chart two:

And this situation is likely to get worse. Let's look at a rather remarkable peer-reviewed study done for the National Academy of Sciences by Roger Stern of Johns Hopkins University late last year. Stern's analysis is somewhat political, in that he is critical of current US Iranian policy, but this is just one of several studies which show the same thing (

"A more probable scenario is that, absent some change in Irani policy ... [we will see] exports declining to zero by 2014-2015. Energy subsidies, hostility to foreign investment, and inefficiencies of its state-planned economy underlie Iran's problem, which has no relation to 'peak oil.' "

Iran earns about $50 billion a year in oil exports. The decline is estimated at 10-12% annually. In less than five years, exports could be halved and then disappear by 2015, predicted Stern.

Of course, you can go to a dozen web sites, mostly Iranian, which demonstrate that Iranian production will be double (or pick a number) by that time. The problem is, they all assume rather large sums of investment in the Iranian oil fields. Two projects which are "counted on" to be producing oil in 2008 have yet to be funded or started, as negotiations have broken down. Iran seems incapable of getting a deal actually done with a willing partner.

Part of this is a caused by the Iranian constitution, which does not allow for foreign ownership of oil reserves or fields. Instead, they try to negotiate to pay for investing in oil production. Called a buyback, any investment in an oil field is turned into sovereign Iranian government debt with a return of 15-17%. This is a very unpopular program at home, coming under much criticism from local government officials. Any deal that gets close to getting done comes under attack from lawmakers as being too good for foreign investors, so nothing is getting done.

Why not just fund the development themselves? They could, but the mullahs have elected to spend the money now rather than make investments which will not produce revenues for 4-6 years or more. They are investing around half the money needed just to maintain production, around $3 billion a year.

Let's look at a quote from Mohammed Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian, Iran's deputy oil minister for international affairs: "If the government does not control the consumption of oil products in Iran ... and at the same time, if the projects for increasing the capacity of the oil and protection of the oil wells will not happen, within 10 years, there will not be any oil for export." That's from their guy, not a Western academic.

When an Enemy is Self-Destructing, Stand Aside

Iran produced over 6 billion barrels of oil before the revolution in 1979. They now produce around 4 billion barrels a year. They are currently producing about 5% below their quota, which shows they are at their limits under current capacity. And production at their old fields is waning. The world recovery rate is about 35% from oil fields. Iran's is an abnormally low 24-27%. Normally, you pump natural gas back into an aging field (called reinjection) in order to get higher yields. Iran has enormous reserves of natural gas. Seems like there should be a solution.

However, if the National Iranian Oil Company (NOIC) sells it natural gas outside of Iran, it turns a profit. If it sells it in the country, then it can only get the lower, dramatically subsidized price. Guess which it chooses. Even so, internal natural gas demand is growing by 9% a year.

Not surprisingly, at 34 cents a gallon gasoline demand is rising 10% a year. This week, the government moved to ration supplies to about 22 gallons a month, which does not go far in the large cars preferred by younger Iranians. There have been riots, with people chanting "Death to Ahmadinejad." They take their right to plenty of cheap gas seriously. There is also widespread smuggling. Ten barrels of gasoline (easily hauled in a pickup) taken into Turkey yields about $3,000 in profit in a country with about that much GDP per person. Let's end with this section from Stern:

"Our survey suggests that Iran's petroleum sector is unlikely to attract investment sufficient to maintain oil exports. Maintaining exports would require foreign investment to increase when it appears to be declining. Other factors contributing to export decline are also intensifying. Demand growth for subsidized petroleum compounds from an ever-larger base. Growth rates for gasoline (11-12%), gas (9%), and electric power (7-8%) are especially problematic. Oil recovery rates have declined, and, with no remedy in sight for the gas reinjection shortage, this decline may accelerate.

"Depletion rates have increased, and, if investment does not increase, depletion will accelerate. If the regime actually proceeds with LNG exports, oil export decline will accelerate for lack of reinjection gas. In summary, the regime has been incapable of maximizing profit, minimizing cost, or constraining explosive demand for subsidized petroleum products. These failures have very substantial economic consequences.

"Despite mismanagement, the Islamic Republic's real oil revenues are nearly their highest ever as rising price compensates for stagnant energy production and declining oil exports. Despite high price, however, population growth has resulted in a 44% decline of real oil revenue per capita since the 1980 price peak. Moreover, virtually all revenue growth has been applied to pet projects, loss-making industries, etc. If price were to decline, political power sustained by the quadrupling of government spending since 1999 may not be sustainable. Yet we found no evidence that Iran plans fiscal retrenchment or any scheme to sustain oil investment.

"Rather, the government promises 'to put oil revenues on every table,' as if monopoly rents were not already the entree. Backing this promise is a welfare state built on the Soviet model widely understood as a formula for long-run economic suicide. This includes the 5-year plans, misallocation of resources, loss-making state enterprises, subsidized consumption, corruption, and oil export dependence that doomed the Soviet experiment. Therefore, the regime's ability to contend with the export decline we project seems limited."

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of mullahs. If gasoline subsidies are 40% of the national budget now, what will they be in 7 years at a growth of 10% a year? Can rationing work? No, but it can slow the economy.

Stern concludes that Iran may need nuclear power as their energy supply is dwindling. I find this conclusion rather preposterous, since if they wanted more energy, all they would have to do is allow foreign investment or invest more of their own money in their own fields. If the developed world will simply apply firm sanctions, Iran will have to reconsider its nuclear program, as their ability to finance mischief will erode as the mullahs divert their resources to domestic needs in order to maintain their dwindling popularity.

The cost of their current policies cannot be lost on the youth and educated people of the country. There is almost 14% unemployment among college graduates. Iran looks to me like Russia did in 1988. They were in the process of self-destruction, although few recognized it at the time. Iran is a matter of time. 
Title: Sanctions
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 02, 2007, 08:17:33 PM
Today's WSJ:

Making Iran Feel the Pain
July 2, 2007

The international community, led by the U.S. and the U.K., is now developing and debating new economic sanctions against Iran. This third round will be pivotal -- either by significantly increasing the cost to Iran of continuing to engage in illicit and dangerous activities, or by showing the regime that it can outlast whatever symbolic measures are levied against it without fear of being bled financially.

The first two rounds of targeted and graduated sanctions have failed to change Iran's nuclear calculus. Iran's chief nuclear negotiator continues to meet with senior EU officials, most likely to buy time, while Tehran refuses to accede to demands that it freeze its uranium enrichment program.

U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747, passed last December and March respectively, signaled seriousness about using financial measures against Iran. The first declared an international consensus to sanction Iran, and the second to target banks. In particular, Russian and Chinese support for these resolutions shocked Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran saw first-hand the weak U.N. pressure on Saddam Hussein and expected no worse treatment. Mr. Ahmadinejad reportedly predicted that neither Moscow nor Beijing would sign off on these resolutions. Their passage made the country's professional classes, which are proud of Iran's integration in the international system, feel the sting of diplomatic and economic isolation.

The most effective U.N. sanction was against Bank Sepah. Iran's fourth-largest and one of the most important financial institutions was shut out of the international financial system. But the package of measures was noteworthy less for the list of specific individuals and entities sanctioned than for starting a graduated process intended to force the regime to stop its illicit conduct.

For graduated sanctions to be effective, however, each deadline that passes without a change in Iran's behavior must be followed by another, more severe round of sanctions. To date, sanctions have had a primarily psychological impact, producing discontent within the powerful merchant (bazaari) classes and civil servants. Now the teeth must come out. Failure to follow up with tougher sanctions would undermine whatever progress sanctions have had to date.

* * *
So this third round is the moment of truth. The danger is that today's diplomacy produces only more symbolic measures, watered down by multilateral negotiations whose goal is international consensus.

To avoid such failure, this round should fill the gaps left open by the first two U.N. resolutions. Specifically, it can target additional Iranian banks, and focus on companies controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, especially those involved in the oil and gas sectors.

The next resolution must also close loopholes like the lack of a mandatory travel ban on designated Iranian officials. It should include a two-way arms embargo banning not only the export of arms from Iran but also the importation of arms to Iran. And it should create a U.N. monitoring team, preferably based in Dubai, to ensure member states comply with the U.N. sanctions regime. It should also add to the U.N. list the 23 Iranian persons and entities subjected to asset forfeiture abroad by the EU but not the U.N. Another useful tool would be to require strict inspections of all Iranian ships and aircraft to prevent violations of the arms ban or the import of banned or dual-use goods intended for Iran's nuclear program.

U.N. sanctions freezing the overseas assets of Bank Sepah were the first significant step toward isolating Iran from the international financial system. Sepah had facilitated the Iranian-North Korean missile procurement business and tried to conceal its role in these transactions.

Several additional Iranian banks are likely candidates to have their funds frozen overseas and slapped with a ban on doing business with them:

• Bank Melli was implicated in the December 2005 U.S. government fine of Dutch bank ABN Amro for violating the Iran/Libya Sanctions Act. Investigators found that Bank Melli used ABN Amro's Dubai office to conceal its role in illegal (under U.S. law) bank transfers to Iran.
• Bank Saderat was shut out of the U.S. financial system last September for its role in financing terrorism, including the transfer of tens of millions of dollars through branches in Europe to Lebanon's Hezbollah and EU-designated Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas.
• U.S. Treasury officials have also cited the Central Bank of Iran as one of the state-owned banks that ask financial institutions to conceal their involvement in facilitating missile procurement, nuclear programs and terror financing.

Beyond banks, the next sanctions resolution must target the massive military-industrial complex controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, an elite paramilitary force. Considered the foundation of President Ahmadinejad's political powerbase, the Guards are also deeply involved in the country's proliferation activities. It also maintains a special branch -- the Qods Force -- responsible for arming, training and supporting terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and insurgents attacking Coalition and Iraqi forces in Iraq.

The Revolutionary Guards are primarily self-funded, with annual revenues from its businesses empire estimated at $1 billion and expected to rise to $1.5-$2 billion with new projects awarded since Mr. Ahmadinejad came to power. According to the U.S. State Department, the Guards are "taking on an increasingly influential role in Iran's economy, with IRGC-affiliated companies winning important government contracts." Freezing the assets of industries controlled by them, like the behemoth engineering firm Khatam ol-Anbia, would resonate with the merchant class that is already critical of the Guards' exclusive access to no-bid contracts.

Moreover, while the prospect of directly sanctioning Iran's oil industry makes the crude markets jittery, the reality is that international economic sanctions will ultimately only be successful if they impact Iran's lucrative oil and gas industries. Going after Khatam ol-Anbia, which was recently awarded a $2.09 billion contract by the Iranian government to develop parts of the South Pars natural gas field and a $1.3 billion contract to build parts of a pipeline, would be a strong shot across the bow of the Iranian oil industry. Such contracts would be put in jeopardy by U.N. sanctions, since no international company could legally do business with a company like Khatam ol-Anbia.

Referring to the unanimously passed sanctions resolutions, President Ahmadinejad recently warned the international community "not to play with the lion's tail." But Iran, unlike North Korea, is well integrated into the world economy and vulnerable to economic sanctions that shut the regime out of the international financial system. Iran can survive a pesky, symbolic sanctions regime like a lion swatting flies with its tail. The regime couldn't easily ignore sanctions with real teeth.

Mr. Levitt, a senior fellow and director of the Stein Program on Terrorism, Intelligence and Policy at the Washington Institute, is former deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the U.S. Treasury Department. He is author of "Hamas: Politics, Charity and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad" (Yale University Press, 2006).
Title: Pay No Attention to the Production Figures Behind the Curtain
Post by: buzwardo on July 07, 2007, 10:25:00 AM
Mullahs Gone Wild
John Mauldin, Millennium Wave Advisors 07.05.07, 12:44 PM ET
I want to briefly look at a development in the oil markets, which I find intriguing. Dr. Woody Brock, in a recent paper on oil prices, wrote a rather interesting sentence, to wit, that Iran would not have net oil to export in 2014.

I found that rather remarkable. Woody is very serious and sober-minded even for an economist, not given to rash analysis, but this was certainly a new idea to me. I knew they were importing most of their gasoline, as they do not have a great deal of refining capacity. As it turns out, there is much more to the story.

I have said for years that I expect Iran to be the new friend of the U.S. sometime next decade, as the regime is not popular and the country is growing younger. (Think China, once an implacable enemy.) I thought that the impetus would be the lack of freedom and knowledge of how the world is better off coming from the Internet, but it turns out that it may be a desire for more freedom combined with economic problems, which help bring about regime change, much as in Russia last century.

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How could a country with the third (or second, depending on which source you quote) largest oil reserves in the world not be churning out ever more black gold? The answer, as it almost always is for such problems, turns out to be governmental and not economic in nature. Let's start out with a few facts.

Oil provides more than 70% of the revenues of the government of Iran. The rise in oil prices has been a bonanza for the regime, allowing them to subsidize all sorts of welfare programs at home and mischief abroad. And one of the chief subsidies is gasoline prices.

Gasoline costs about $.34 cents a gallon in Iran, or 9 cents a liter. You can fill up your Honda Civic for $4.49. In the U.S. it costs almost $40. In neighboring Turkey it costs almost $95. Iran is spending 38% of its national budget (almost 15% of gross domestic product) on gasoline subsidies!

And this situation is likely to get worse. Let's look at a rather remarkable peer-reviewed study done for the National Academy of Sciences by Roger Stern of Johns Hopkins University late last year. Stern's analysis is somewhat political, in that he is critical of current U.S. Iranian policy, but this is just one of several studies that show the same thing:

"A more probable scenario is that, absent some change in Irani policy ... [we will see] exports declining to zero by 2014 to 2015. Energy subsidies, hostility to foreign investment and inefficiencies of its state-planned economy underlie Iran's problem, which has no relation to 'peak oil.' "

Iran earns about $50 billion a year in oil exports. The decline is estimated at 10% to 12% annually. In less than five years, exports could be halved and then disappear by 2015, predicted Stern.

Of course, you can go to a dozen Web sites, mostly Iranian, which demonstrate that Iranian production will be double (or pick a number) by that time. The problem is, they all assume rather large sums of investment in the Iranian oil fields. Two projects which are "counted on" to be producing oil in 2008 have yet to be funded or started, as negotiations have broken down. Iran seems incapable of getting a deal actually done with a willing partner.

Part of this is caused by the Iranian constitution, which does not allow for foreign ownership of oil reserves or fields. Instead, they try to negotiate to pay for investing in oil production. Called a buyback, any investment in an oil field is turned into sovereign Iranian government debt with a return of 15% to 17%. This is a very unpopular program at home, coming under much criticism from local government officials. Any deal that gets close to getting done comes under attack from lawmakers as being too good for foreign investors, so nothing is getting done.

Why not just fund the development themselves? They could, but the mullahs have elected to spend the money now rather than make investments that will not produce revenues for four to six years or more. They are investing around half the money needed just to maintain production, around $3 billion a year.

Let's look at a quote from Mohammed Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian, Iran's deputy oil minister for international affairs: "If the government does not control the consumption of oil products in Iran ... and at the same time, if the projects for increasing the capacity of the oil and protection of the oil wells will not happen, within 10 years, there will not be any oil for export." That's from their guy, not a Western academic.

When An Enemy Is Self-Destructing, Stand Aside
Iran produced over 6 billion barrels of oil before the revolution in 1979. They now produce around 4 billion barrels a year. They are currently producing about 5% below their quota, which shows they are at their limits under current capacity. And production at their old fields is waning. The world recovery rate is about 35% from oil fields.

Iran's is an abnormally low 24% to 27%. Normally, you pump natural gas back into an aging field (called reinjection) in order to get higher yields. Iran has enormous reserves of natural gas. Seems like there should be a solution.

However, if the National Iranian Oil Company (NOIC) sells it natural gas outside of Iran, it turns a profit. If it sells it in the country, then it can only get the lower, dramatically subsidized price. Guess which it chooses. Even so, internal natural gas demand is growing by 9% a year.

Not surprisingly, at 34 cents a gallon, gasoline demand is rising 10% a year. This week, the government moved to ration supplies to about 22 gallons a month, which does not go far in the large cars preferred by younger Iranians. There have been riots, with people chanting "Death to Ahmadinejad." They take their right to plenty of cheap gas seriously.

There is also widespread smuggling. Ten barrels of gasoline (easily hauled in a pickup) taken into Turkey yields about $3,000 in profit in a country with about that much GDP per person. Let's end with this section from Stern:

"Our survey suggests that Iran's petroleum sector is unlikely to attract investment sufficient to maintain oil exports. Maintaining exports would require foreign investment to increase when it appears to be declining. Other factors contributing to export decline are also intensifying. Demand growth for subsidized petroleum compounds from an ever-larger base. Growth rates for gasoline (11% to 12%), gas (9%) and electric power (7% to 8%) are especially problematic. Oil recovery rates have declined, and, with no remedy in sight for the gas reinjection shortage, this decline may accelerate.

"Depletion rates have increased, and, if investment does not increase, depletion will accelerate. If the regime actually proceeds with LNG exports, oil export decline will accelerate for lack of reinjection gas. In summary, the regime has been incapable of maximizing profit, minimizing cost or constraining explosive demand for subsidized petroleum products. These failures have very substantial economic consequences.

"Despite mismanagement, the Islamic Republic's real oil revenues are nearly their highest ever as rising price compensates for stagnant energy production and declining oil exports. Despite high price, however, population growth has resulted in a 44% decline of real oil revenue per capita since the 1980 price peak. Moreover, virtually all revenue growth has been applied to pet projects, loss-making industries, etc.

If price were to decline, political power sustained by the quadrupling of government spending since 1999 may not be sustainable. Yet we found no evidence that Iran plans fiscal retrenchment or any scheme to sustain oil investment.

"Rather, the government promises 'to put oil revenues on every table,' as if monopoly rents were not already the entree. Backing this promise is a welfare state built on the Soviet model widely understood as a formula for long-run economic suicide.

This includes the five-year plans, misallocation of resources, loss-making state enterprises, subsidized consumption, corruption and oil export dependence that doomed the Soviet experiment. Therefore, the regime's ability to contend with the export decline we project seems limited."

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of mullahs. If gasoline subsidies are 40% of the national budget now, what will they be in seven years at a growth of 10% a year? Can rationing work? No, but it can slow the economy.

Stern concludes that Iran may need nuclear power as their energy supply is dwindling. I find this conclusion rather preposterous, since if they wanted more energy, all they would have to do is allow foreign investment or invest more of their own money in their own fields. If the developed world will simply apply firm sanctions, Iran will have to reconsider its nuclear program, as their ability to finance mischief will erode as the mullahs divert their resources to domestic needs in order to maintain their dwindling popularity.

The cost of their current policies cannot be lost on the youth and educated people of the country. There is almost 14% unemployment among college graduates. Iran looks to me like Russia did in 1988. They were in the process of self-destruction, although few recognized it at the time. Iran is a matter of time.

John Mauldin is president of investment advisory firm Millennium Wave Advisors, LLC. He may be reached by e-mail:
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on July 07, 2007, 05:33:18 PM

Al-Qaeda linked to operations from Iran
By Stephen Fidler in London
Published: July 6 2007 22:04 | Last updated: July 6 2007 22:04
Evidence that Iranian territory is being used as a base by al-Qaeda to help in terrorist operations in Iraq and elsewhere is growing, say western officials.

It is not clear how much the al-Qaeda operation, described by one official as a money and communications hub, is being tolerated or encouraged by the Iranian government, they said.

The group’s operatives, who link the al-Qaeda leadership in Pakistan with their disciples in Iraq, the Levant and North Africa, move with relative freedom in the country, they said.

The officials said the creation of some kind of al-Qaeda hub in Iran appears to be separate from the group of seven senior al-Qaeda figures, including Saad bin Laden, son of the group’s figurehead, that Iran is said to have detained since 2002.

A senior US official said the information had produced different assessments. “The most conservative, cautious intelligence assessment is that [the Iranian authorities] are turning a blind eye. But there are a lot of doubts about that,” he said.

“They are benefiting from the mayhem that AQ is carrying out. They don’t have to deal with al-Qaeda to benefit.”

Yet while Tehran might be content with the pressure al-Qaeda is placing on the US occupation in Iraq, Iran, as a state based on Shia Islam surrounded by mainly Sunni countries, has long been wary of al-Qaeda’s fierce brand of Sunni Islam.

A former Iranian official said Iran feared al-Qaeda and did not want to distract it from Iraq, dismissing any idea that Iran was supplying it with weapons. “Our relationship with al-Qaeda, at an intelligence level, can be said to be successful as long as they are at a distance,” he said.

Analysts say several Sunni extremist groups, some presumed linked to al-Qaeda and from various ethnic groups including Kurds, are in Iran. US-led military action in Iraq has led some to seek refuge over the border.

In the past, Tehran has also been a target of al-Qaeda attacks. A militant Sunni group based in Pakistan and possibly linked to al-Qaeda was suspected of the 1994 bombing of the shrine of the seventh Shia Imam, Reza, in Mashhad, killing 26 people.

Iran has also shown growing concern over Jundullah, a radical Sunni group from the restive south-east area of Balucestan that has carried out violent attacks in recent years.

Three years ago, Pakistani officials said members of al-Qaeda had begun leaving Pakistan’s border region close to Afghanistan and heading for Iraq. Of the routes used, going overland via Iran was the easiest. That traffic might have increased as links between al-Qaeda and its Iraq offshoot intensify.

Additional reporting by Gareth Smyth in Tehran and Farhan Bokhari in Islamabad
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on July 07, 2007, 05:39:39 PM;jsessionid=CY5XJD01L5C0FQFIQMGCFGGAVCBQUIV0?xml=/news/2007/07/08/wiran108.xml&site=5&page=0

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad silences his critics

By Colin Freeman in Teheran, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:03am BST 08/07/2007

Ali Nikoo Nesbati glances carefully at the couple who have just sat down at the table next to him. Aged in their 20s and dressed in fashionable Western clothes, they seem like the kind of people who'd be natural supporters of the pro-democracy movement that he leads. Yet their decision to sit right next to him, when the rest of the café in the secluded Teheran alley is empty, is enough to make him suspicious.

"They were probably just ordinary customers," he whispered, as he ushered The Sunday Telegraph back on to the streets to continue the interview elsewhere. "But you never know. We were sat in that café for 45 minutes, which is long enough for the intelligence services to find out where we are."

Silenced: Abdullah Momeni, a prominent critic of the regime

A paranoia about who might be listening is an occupational hazard for activists like Mr Nesbati, whose campaigns for reform of Iran's theocratic government have led to constant run-ins with the secret police since the late Nineties.

But that sense of paranoia is now greater than ever, as a long-feared crackdown by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country's puritanical leader, finally appears to be coming into force.

In what activists claim is a "cultural revolution" reminiscent of the Islamic Republic's turbulent birth in 1979, the regime has turned on its critics in all walks of life, harassing pro-democracy activists, shutting down dissident publications and dismissing independent-minded government officials and academics.

The onslaught has confounded early impressions that Mr Ahmadinejad, despite his religious zealotry, threats against Israel and defiance over Iran's nuclear programme, was not proving as aggressive as feared when it came to dealing with his internal opposition.

When members of Mr Nesbati's pro-democracy group staged a demonstration at Teheran's Amir Kabir University last December, in which they held photos of the president upside-down and denounced him as a "fascist", Mr Ahmadinejad surprised the world by requesting that they should not be arrested. He later cited his move as proof of the "absolute, total freedom" Iranians enjoyed.

The presidential pardon appears to have been short-lived. Eight of those protesters have since been jailed, the victims of what Mr Nesbati claims was a state-sponsored plot.

"Ahmadinejad said nobody would touch them, but the intelligence agencies smeared them by printing a blasphemous publication which they blamed on the students," he said. "We believe that was Ahmadinejad's revenge. We don't know if he ordered it himself, but we are convinced it was his supporters."

The students, one of whom has now spent more than two months in jail, are among 70 to have been arrested since Mr Ahmadinejad came to power; nearly half of these were seized in the last four months. More than 500 others have been suspended or expelled from university because of political activities, while about 130 student publications and 40 student organisations have been closed.

The accusations levelled against them typically include "endangering national security", spreading "rumours and lies" and "having relations with foreign intelligence agencies", all charges that Mr Nesbati has faced in his years as an activist, during which he has been arrested three times.

"They're not really charges as such, they just assume you are guilty and then ask why you did it," he said. "It's stressful the first time you're arrested but after that it's not so bad, although it depends what they do to you.

"Sometimes people get put in a room where they're made to stand facing a wall for 48 hours at a time. If you fall asleep, they hit you."

Campaigners say the crackdown began in March, when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Spiritual Leader and a man of similar hardline views to Mr Ahmadinejad, made a speech warning Iranians against the West's "psychological warfare". This was taken to be a reference to Washington's funding of opposition groups, pro-democracy movements and anti-regime satellite broadcasts.

The president, who is regarded by many as little more than a mouthpiece for Mr Khamenei, is thought to have taken this as a cue to move against any groups critical of the regime.

Women's rights groups and trade union leaders have reported being harassed, scholars have been put under pressure for refusing to sign anti-Israeli statements, and Iran's press has claimed to have received lists of banned topics, such as the effect of threatened United Nations sanctions. University professors have also been warned against attending conferences abroad, and several visiting Iranian-American academics remain in custody after being charged with espionage.

One Western diplomat in Iran said the situation was "uneasy". He said: "The crackdown has been more gradual than people expected, but over the last few months we have been getting a lot of stories of people being hassled."

Similar clampdowns took place under President Mohammad Khatami, Mr Ahmadinejad's reformist-minded predecessor, whose campaign to introduce a liberal regime was not always heeded by hardline elements in the security forces.

However, activists say that now there is no longer a voice in government to speak for them. "Back then people would get arrested, but then Khatami would use his influence to get them released," said Abdullah Momeni, the leader of Tahkim Vahdat, Iran's largest student organisation and a prominent critic of the regime. "Now those who are arrested are not even getting released."

The attacks on reformists come as they struggle to recover from the splits and apathy that led to them losing the 2005 elections to Mr Ahmadinejad. The movement is divided between more conservative elements, who prefer gradual change within the existing clerical system of government, and those who wish to replace the Islamic republic altogether with a Western-style, secular democracy.

Both sides have talked of forming an alliance to defeat Mr Ahmadinejad in the next presidential elections, but no mutually credible figure has emerged to head it.

The fact that many reformists were still at large to criticise the regime, meanwhile, was not grounds for optimism, said Mr Momeni. "Now the judiciary and parliament and president feel so powerful that they don't really see us as a threat any more. It shows that in a sense, we have lost our status and position in society."
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 08, 2007, 05:19:42 AM

Iran's Proxy War
Tehran is on the offensive against us throughout the Middle East. Will Congress respond?

Friday, July 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Earlier this week, the U.S. military made public new and disturbing information about the proxy war that Iran is waging against American soldiers and our allies in Iraq.

According to Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, the Iranian government has been using the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah to train and organize Iraqi extremists, who are responsible in turn for the murder of American service members.

Gen. Bergner also revealed that the Quds Force--a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps whose mission is to finance, arm and equip foreign Islamist terrorist movements--has taken groups of up to 60 Iraqi insurgents at a time and brought them to three camps near Tehran, where they have received instruction in the use of mortars, rockets, improvised explosive devices and other deadly tools of guerrilla warfare that they use against our troops. Iran has also funded its Iraqi proxies generously, to the tune of $3 million a month.

Based on the interrogation of captured extremist leaders--including a 24-year veteran of Hezbollah, apparently dispatched to Iraq by his patrons in Tehran--Gen. Bergner also reported on Monday that the U.S. military has concluded that "the senior leadership" in Iran is aware of these terrorist activities. He said it is "hard to imagine" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei--Iran's supreme leader--does not know of them.

These latest revelations should be a painful wakeup call to the American people, and to the U.S. Congress. They also expand on a steady stream of public statements over the past six months by David Petraeus, the commanding general of our coalition in Iraq, as well as other senior American military and civilian officials about Iran's hostile and violent role in Iraq. In February, for instance, the U.S. military stated that forensic evidence has implicated Iran in the death of at least 170 U.S. soldiers.
Iran's actions in Iraq fit a larger pattern of expansionist, extremist behavior across the Middle East today. In addition to sponsoring insurgents in Iraq, Tehran is training, funding and equipping radical Islamist groups in Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan--where the Taliban now appear to be receiving Iranian help in their war against the government of President Hamid Karzai and its NATO defenders.

While some will no doubt claim that Iran is only attacking U.S. soldiers in Iraq because they are deployed there--and that the solution, therefore, is to withdraw them--Iran's parallel proxy attacks against moderate Palestinians, Afghans and Lebanese directly rebut such claims.

Iran is acting aggressively and consistently to undermine moderate regimes in the Middle East, establish itself as the dominant regional power and reshape the region in its own ideological image. The involvement of Hezbollah in Iraq, just revealed by Gen. Bergner, illustrates precisely how interconnected are the different threats and challenges we face in the region. The fanatical government of Iran is the common denominator that links them together.

No responsible leader in Washington desires conflict with Iran. But every leader has a responsibility to acknowledge the evidence that the U.S. military has now put before us: The Iranian government, by its actions, has all but declared war on us and our allies in the Middle East.

America now has a solemn responsibility to utilize the instruments of our national power to convince Tehran to change its behavior, including the immediate cessation of its training and equipping extremists who are killing our troops.

Most of this work must be done by our diplomats, military and intelligence operatives in the field. But Iran's increasingly brazen behavior also presents a test of our political leadership here at home. When Congress reconvenes next week, all of us who are privileged to serve there should set aside whatever partisan or ideological differences divide us to send a clear, strong and unified message to Tehran that it must stop everything it is doing to bring about the death of American service members in Iraq.

It is of course everyone's hope that diplomacy alone can achieve this goal. Iran's activities inside Iraq were the central issue raised by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq in his historic meeting with Iranian representatives in Baghdad this May. However, as Gen. Bergner said on Monday, "There does not seem to be any follow-through on the commitments that Iran has made to work with Iraq in addressing the destabilizing security issues here." The fact is, any diplomacy with Iran is more likely to be effective if it is backed by a credible threat of force--credible in the dual sense that we mean it, and the Iranians believe it.

Our objective here is deterrence. The fanatical regime in Tehran has concluded that it can use proxies to strike at us and our friends in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine without fear of retaliation. It is time to restore that fear, and to inject greater doubt into the decision-making of Iranian leaders about the risks they are now running.
I hope the new revelations about Iran's behavior will also temper the enthusiasm of some of those in Congress who are advocating the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Iran's purpose in sponsoring attacks on American soldiers, after all, is clear: It hopes to push the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan, so that its proxies can then dominate these states. Tehran knows that an American retreat under fire would send an unmistakable message throughout the region that Iran is on the rise and America is on the run. That would be a disaster for the region and the U.S.

The threat posed by Iran to our soldiers' lives, our security as a nation and our allies in the Middle East is a truth that cannot be wished or waved away. It must be confronted head-on. The regime in Iran is betting that our political disunity in Washington will constrain us in responding to its attacks. For the sake of our nation's security, we must unite and prove them wrong.

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Howling Dog on July 10, 2007, 10:23:39 AM
I guess 11 years in prison was not enough :-P............,2933,288793,00.html

Convicted Adulterer Stoned to Death in Iran
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

TEHRAN, Iran  —  In a rare confirmation, Iran on Tuesday said a man convicted of adultery was stoned to death last week in a village in the northern part of the country, Iran's judiciary spokesman said.

Jafar Kiani was stoned to death in Aghchekand village, 124 miles west of the capital, Tehran, on Thursday, Ali Reza Jamshidi told reporters. It was the first time in years that Iran has confirmed such an execution.

"This verdict was carried out Thursday," Jamshidi told reporters.

Death sentences are carried out in Iran after they are upheld by the Supreme Court. Under Iran's Islamic law, adultery is punishable by stoning.

Jamshidi didn't elaborate on how the stoning was carried out, but under Islamic rulings, a male convict is usually buried up to his waist while a female criminal is buried up to her neck with her hands also buried.

Those carrying out the verdict start throwing stones and rocks at the convict until he or she dies
International human rights groups have long condemned stoning in Iran as a "cruel and barbaric" punishment.

Earlier Tuesday before Iran confirmed the stoning, U.N. human rights chief Louise Arbour condemned the execution, her spokesman said.

"The execution has apparently gone ahead despite Iran's moratorium on execution by stoning, a moratorium that had been in effect since 2002," said Jose Diaz of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Stoning is in clear violation of international law," Diaz said Tuesday in Geneva. He said Arbour considered stoning to be a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited under an international treaty which Iran has signed.

Also Tuesday in Norway, the Foreign Ministry said Iran's ambassador was summoned by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere to protest the stoning.

Gahr Stoere was "deeply upset" that the death penalty had been carried out and called stoning an "inhumane and barbaric method of punishment," Foreign Ministry spokesman Frode Andersen said in Oslo.

The reported execution comes two weeks after international pressure, including protests from Norway, caused Iranian officials to delay carrying out the sentence against Kiani and his female companion, Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, who also was sentenced to death by stoning. It was not known if a date had been set for her execution.

The couple had reportedly been imprisoned for 11 years.

Stoning was widely imposed in the early years after the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the pro-Western Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought hard-line clerics to power. But in recent years, it has rarely been applied, though the government rarely confirms when it carries out stoning sentences.

There is no official report of the last time Iran stoned someone to death, but there were unconfirmed media reports that a couple was stoned in 2006 in Mashhad, located in northeastern Iran.

A group of women's rights activists headed by feminist lawyer Shadi Sadr have been campaigning to have the sentence removed from Iran's statute books.

In the past years, Iran's reformist legislators demanded an end to death by stoning as a punishment for adultery, but opposition from hard-line clerics sidelined their efforts.

Capital offenses in Iran include murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy, blasphemy, serious drug trafficking, adultery or prostitution, treason and espionage.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 11, 2007, 04:49:03 PM
What Iranians Really Think
July 11, 2007; Page A14

Keen observers of Iran have insisted for years that the Iranian people are pro-Western, indeed pro-American, while opposed to the largely unelected clerical regime that rules them. For the first time, Terror Free Tomorrow's unprecedented nationwide poll of Iran offers indisputable empirical proof that these commentators are dead-on in their assessment of the "Iranian street."

Discontent with the current system of government, the economy and isolation from the West is widespread throughout Iran. In this context, nuclear weapons are the lowest priority for the Iranian people. The overwhelming popular will to live in a country open to the West and the U.S., with greater economic opportunity, is a powerful plea from every region and segment of society. Iranians also speak with one voice in rejecting the current autocratic rule of their supreme leader and in courageously asking for democracy instead.

Iranian students: A new survey shows their fellow citizens want democracy too.
These are among the significant findings of the first uncensored public opinion survey of Iran since President Ahmadinejad took office. The survey was conducted in Farsi by telephone from June 5 to June 18, 2007, with 1,000 interviews covering all 30 provinces of Iran (and a margin of error of 3.1%). The last poll to ask similar controversial questions was conducted in September 2003 by Abbas Abdi inside Iran. He was imprisoned as a result.

Developing nuclear weapons was seen as a very important priority by only 29% of Iranians. By contrast, 88% of Iranians considered improving the Iranian economy a very important priority. 80% of Iranians favor Iran offering full international nuclear inspections and a guarantee not to develop or possess nuclear weapons in return for outside aid.

Moreover, close to 70% of Iranians also favor normal relations and trade with the U.S. Indeed, in exchange for normal relations, a majority of Iranians even favor recognizing Israel and Palestine as independent states, ending Iranian support for any armed groups inside Iraq, and giving full transparency by Iran to the U.S. to ensure there are no Iranian endeavors to develop nuclear weapons.

Yet the most significant finding of our survey for the future of Iran's present rulers is the opposition to their current system of government. Some 61% of Iranians were willing to tell our pollsters -- over the phone no less -- that they oppose the current Iranian system of government, in which the supreme leader rules according to religious principles and cannot be chosen or replaced by direct vote of the people. More telling, over 79% of Iranians support a democratic system instead, in which the supreme leader, along with all leaders, can be chosen and replaced by a free and direct vote of the people. Only 11% of Iranians said they would strongly oppose having a political system in which all of their leaders, including the supreme leader, are chosen by popular election.

Iranians across all demographic groups oppose the unelected rule of the supreme leader in favor of electing all their leaders. While these views run stronger in Tehran, they are also held across all provinces of Iran, and in both urban and rural areas.

Terror Free Tomorrow's path-breaking survey of Iran demonstrates that the Iranian people are the best ally of the U.S. and the West against the government in Tehran. The considerable challenge is how to support the Iranian people while also achieving important U.S. goals, such as preventing the Iranian government from developing a nuclear arsenal.

There are no easy answers. The U.S., with France, Germany, Britain and the international community, however, should not spurn the clear will of Iranians. The implicit bet Iranians seem to want the world to make is to engage Iran now, and place the burden squarely on Iran's rulers to reject an offer that would clearly improve the life of the Iranian people themselves.

This does not mean that the U.S., Europe and the international community should abandon current sanctions or indeed fail to strengthen future sanctions against the regime. Yet since military options for responding to Iran entail even greater unknowable risks, and sanctions alone so far have proved inadequate, a strategy that also recognizes the consensus of the people of Iran themselves may realistically offer the best hope for all.

Mr. Ballen is president of Terror Free Tomorrow.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 12, 2007, 01:22:46 PM

BAHRAIN/IRAN: Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa summoned Iran's charge d'affaires to answer questions about Tehran's official position on an editorial written by Hussain Shariatmadari, managing editor of Iranian daily newspaper Kayhan, in which Shariatmadari calls Bahrain an Iranian province, The Media Line reported. Shariatmadari, who is also an adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, wrote that Bahrain was separated from Iran under an illegal agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and the Shah of Iran.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 18, 2007, 06:08:51 AM
The Bush Doctrine Lives
The president isn't selling out Israel or relaxing his call for Palestinian democracy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

JERUSALEM--Newspapers in Israel yesterday were full of stories about President Bush's call on Monday for the creation of a Palestinian state and an international peace conference. While Israeli officials were quoted expressing satisfaction with the fact that "there were no changes in Bush's policies," commentators questioned whether the Saudis would participate in such a gathering and whether Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, with his single-digit approval ratings, could uproot Israeli settlers from the West Bank.

But all the focus on the conference misses the point. Mr. Bush has not backtracked an inch from his revolutionary Middle East policy. Never before has any American president placed the onus of demonstrating a commitment to peace so emphatically on Palestinian shoulders. Though Mr. Bush insisted that Israel refrain from further settlement expansion and remove unauthorized outposts, the bulk of his demands were directed at the Palestinians.

"The Palestinian people must decide that they want a future of decency and hope," he said, "not a future of terror and death. They must match their words denouncing terror with action to combat terror."

According to Mr. Bush, the Palestinians can only achieve statehood by first stopping all attacks against Israel, freeing captured Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, and ridding the Palestinian Authority of corruption. They must also detach themselves from the invidious influence of Syria and Iran: "Nothing less is acceptable."

In addition to the prerequisites stipulated for the Palestinians, Mr. Bush set unprecedented conditions for Arab participation in peace efforts. He exhorted Arab leaders to emulate "peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan" by ending anti-Semitic incitement in their media and dropping the fiction of Israel's non-existence. More dramatically, Mr. Bush called on those Arab governments that have yet to establish relations with Israel to recognize its right to exist and to authorize ministerial missions to the Jewish state.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia, which has offered such recognition but only in return for a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, will have to accept Israel prior to any territorial concessions. Mr. Bush also urged Arab states to wage an uncompromising battle against Islamic extremism and, in the case of Egypt and Jordan, to open their borders to Palestinian trade.

If the Israeli media largely overlooked the diplomatic innovations of Mr. Bush's speech, they completely missed its dynamic territorial and demographic dimensions. The president pledged to create a "contiguous" Palestinian state--code for assuring unbroken Palestinian sovereignty over most of the West Bank and possibly designating a West Bank-Gaza corridor. On the other hand, the president committed to seek a peace agreement based on "mutually agreed borders" and "current realities," which is a euphemism for Israel's retention of West Bank settlement blocks and no return to the 1967 lines.

Most momentous, however, was Mr. Bush's affirmation that "the United States will never abandon . . . the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people." This means nothing less than the rejection of the Palestinians' immutable demand for the resettlement of millions of refugees and their descendents in Israel. America is now officially dedicated to upholding Israel's Jewish majority and preventing its transformation into a de facto Palestinian state.

Beyond these elements, the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's vision was the international conference. The Israeli press hastened to interpret this as a framework for expediting the advent of Palestinian statehood, yet it is clear that the conference is not intended to produce a state but rather to monitor the Palestinians' progress in building viable civic and democratic institutions. The goal, Mr. Bush said, will be to "help the Palestinians establish . . . a strong and lasting society" with "effective governing structures, a sound financial system, and the rule of law."

Specifically, the conference will assist in reforming the Palestinian Authority, strengthening its security forces, and encouraging young Palestinians to participate in politics. Ultimate responsibility for laying these sovereign foundations, however, rests not with the international community but solely with the Palestinians themselves: "By following this path, Palestinians can reclaim their dignity and their future . . . [and] answer their people's desire to live in peace."
Unfortunately, many of these pioneering components in Mr. Bush's speech were either implicitly or obliquely stated, and one might have wished for a more unequivocal message, such as that conveyed in his June 2002 speech on the Middle East. Still, there can be no underrating the sea change in America's policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict brought about by this administration. If, under U.N. Resolution 242, Israelis were expected to relinquish territory and only then receive peace, now the Arabs will have to cede many aspects of peace--non-belligerency and recognition--well in advance of receiving territory.

Similarly, Mr. Bush's commitment to maintain Israel's Jewish majority signals the total rescinding of American support for Resolution 194, which provided for refugee return. Moreover, by insisting that the Palestinians first construct durable and transparent institutions before attaining independence, Mr. Bush effectively reversed the process, set out in the 1993 Oslo Accords, whereby the Palestinians would obtain statehood immediately and only later engage in institution building. Peace-for-land, preserving the demographic status quo, and building a civil society prior to achieving statehood--these are the pillars of Mr. Bush's doctrine on peace.

But will it work? Given the Palestinians' historical inability to sustain sovereign structures and their repeated (1938, 1947, 1979, 2000) rejection of offers of a state, the chances hardly seem sanguine.

Much of the administration's hope for a breakthrough rests on the Palestinians' newly appointed prime minister, Salaam Fayyad, who is purportedly incorruptible. Nevertheless, one righteous man is unlikely to succeed in purging the Palestinian Authority of embezzlement and graft and uniting its multiple militias.

The Saudis will probably balk at the notion of recognizing Israel before it exits the West Bank and Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees throughout the region will certainly resist any attempt to prevent them from regaining their former homes. Iran and Syria and their Hamas proxies can be counted on to undermine the process at every stage, often with violence.

Yet, despite the scant likelihood of success, Mr. Bush is to be credited for delineating clear and equitable criteria for pursuing Palestinian independence and for drafting a principled blueprint for peace. This alone represents a bold response to Hamas and its backers in Damascus and Tehran. The Palestinians have been given their diplomatic horizon and the choice between "chaos, suffering, and the endless perpetuation of grievance," and "security and a better life."
So, too, the president is to be commended for not taking the easy route of railroading the Palestinians to self-governance under a regime that would almost certainly implode. Now his paramount task is to stand by the benchmarks his administration has established, and to hold both Palestinians and Israelis accountable for any failure to meet them.

Mr. Oren is a fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present" (Norton, 2007).

Title: Quid Pro Quo Revisited
Post by: buzwardo on August 02, 2007, 09:20:57 PM
An interesting take on recent arm sales announcements and leaks.

Bush's Gulf Gambit

By containing Iran, the U.S. remains in Iraq.

Michael Young | August 2, 2007

The United States plans to sell Gulf countries at least $20 billion worth of military hardware in the coming years, and will sign 10-year military aid packages with Egypt and Israel, valued together at $43 billion. According to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Washington is "working with these states to give a chance to the forces of moderation and reform."

Oddly, on Friday the New York Times published a story roundly criticizing the Saudis for their "counterproductive" attitude in Iraq. Senior U.S. officials were quoted as saying that the kingdom had tried to discredit Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by handing American officials forged documents depicting Maliki as an agent of Iran and an ally of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Times revealed that "the Saudis have offered financial support to Sunni groups in Iraq. Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow." U.S. officials also noted that "the majority of suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia and that about 40 percent of all foreign fighters are Saudi."

Why this story came out just before the announcement of the arms deals was unclear, though one could guess. By criticizing Riyadh publicly for the first time, and in such a blunt way, the Bush administration preempted, and therefore effectively neutralized, Saudi Arabia's critics in Washington who might seek to block the military transactions. But the Times article was also a warning to the Saudis that the U.S. was losing patience with the kingdom's behavior in Iraq, though the impact must have been dulled by revelations a day later that the Gulf states were central to the U.S. strategy of containing expanding Iranian power.

But perhaps most significantly, the leaks were designed to remind the Saudis that the Bush administration's failure in Iraq would only harm the kingdom itself, which might then find itself caught up in a regional sectarian conflagration devouring everyone. The subdued Saudi reaction to the American censure—the fact, too, that Riyadh knew the announcement of the arms deal was imminent—very likely meant the Saudis were expecting the administration's broadside beforehand.

The U.S. has dusted off an old template in the Persian Gulf, but with two twists. We're back to the days when the Gulf kingdoms and emirates were avid consumers of high-tech American weaponry, in the context of a broader quid pro quo where the U.S. took on the burden of security in the Gulf region in exchange for Saudi intervention to stabilize the oil markets. The two twists are that stable oil prices today can only really come by way of thwarting Iranian hegemony in the Gulf; and second, doing so means that the U.S. must replace Iraq as a regional counterweight to Iran.

Reverting to this policy is more astute than it looks. The U.S. approach to the Gulf throughout the Cold War years and up until 9/11 enjoyed bipartisan support. The large weapons contracts pleased members of Congress representing constituencies with defense-related industries; stable and low oil prices were good for everyone; and the American presence in the Persian Gulf was always an acceptable way of projecting U.S. power, without usually having to worry about casualties.

In reviving that general framework, one justified today through the containment of a threatening Iran, the administration is defining its military deployment in Iraq very differently. The priority is no longer promoting Iraqi and Middle Eastern democracy; it is ensuring that U.S. interests in the Middle East are preserved. We're back to the basics of foreign policy "realism." As Condoleezza Rice declared on Monday: "There isn't a doubt, I think, that Iran constitutes the single most important, single-country challenge to U.S. interests in the Middle East and to the kind of Middle East that we want to see."

If Iran is accepted as the arch enemy, then withdrawing from Iraq suddenly looks like a bad idea, particularly when influential critics of the conduct of the Iraq war like Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack are writing that the U.S. is "finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms." By anchoring Iraq policy in a consensus that previously existed vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, buttressing this with lucrative defense contracts, and gaining Israeli acquiescence for the sales, the administration has made it more difficult for Congress impose its will on President George W. Bush when it comes to the Iraqi conflict.

For the moment Congress is playing coy. Sen. Joseph Biden and Rep. Tom Lantos, who head the congressional committees that will consider the arms deals, are waiting for September to commit themselves. September also happens to be when Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker submit their report on the progress of the U.S. military "surge" in Iraq. Biden and Lantos may use debate over the weapons contracts as a bargaining chip with the administration to define future Iraq policy, depending on what Petraeus and Crocker conclude.

But you have to wonder if Bush has not already won that round. Congress has been unable to impose an alternative Iraq strategy, and now the administration is trying to take advantage of that void. If we are to believe the administration in its new approach, the U.S. military in Iraq is now part of a regional security architecture. By approving the defense packages, Congress would be endorsing this Bush vision for the region. Maybe the president is not quite as dead as his detractors think.

Michael Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon and a contributing editor to reason.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 03, 2007, 06:24:34 AM

I suspect this piece is not too far off the mark in several respects.

Title: China Transhipping Arms thorugh Iran?
Post by: buzwardo on August 05, 2007, 04:02:25 PM
The Arsenal of the Iraq Insurgency
It's made in China.
by John J. Tkacik Jr.
08/13/2007, Volume 012, Issue 45

This year, many truckloads of small arms and explosives direct from Chinese government-owned factories to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been transshipped to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they are used against American soldiers and Marines and NATO forces. Since April, according to a knowledgeable Bush administration official, "vast amounts" of Chinese-made large caliber sniper rifles, "millions of rounds" of ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and "IED [improvised explosive device] components" have been convoyed from Iran into Iraq and to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates insists there is "no evidence as yet" that Tehran government officials are involved in shipping weapons to Iraq for use against U.S. forces, a judgment that seems to hinge on the view that the Revolutionary Guards are not part of the "government." But the administration source cautioned, "these are Revolutionary Guards trucks, and although we can't see the mullahs at the wheel, you can bet this is [Tehran] government-sanctioned."

In addition, in early June the Washington Times reported from Kabul that the Pentagon had evidence of new shipments of Chinese shoulder-fired HN-5 antiaircraft missiles reaching Taliban units in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. This shouldn't be surprising. The Pentagon has known since last August that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards had supplied Chinese-made C-802 antiship missiles with advanced antijamming countermeasures to Hezbollah in Lebanon. One slammed into the Israeli destroyer Hanit killing four sailors on July 14, 2006, during the Lebanon war.

The amount of raw intelligence on these Chinese arms shipments to Iran is growing, according to the official, who has seen it. Some items show Iran has made "urgent" requests for "vast amounts" of Chinese-made sniper rifles, apparently exact copies of the Austrian-made Steyr-Mannlicher HS50 which the Vienna government approved for sale to Iran's National Iranian Police Organization in 2004 (ostensibly to help customs officers police Iran's long and sparsely populated mountainous borders). At the time, the United States and Great Britain glowered at the Austrian government and slapped a two-year sales ban on Steyr-Mannlicher. Then in February, as if to confirm the worst suspicions, U.S. troops in Iraq uncovered caches of about 100 of the sniper weapons that looked like the Austrian rifles, the Daily Telegraph reported.

U.S. officials in Baghdad told reporters that at least 170 U.S. and British soldiers had been killed by well-trained and heavily armed snipers. On June 22, for example, an Army specialist was struck by a sniper as he climbed out of his Abrams tank during Operation Bull Run in Al Duraiya. Earlier that morning, the same sniper shot out the tank's thermal sights. He was "probably the most skilled sniper we've seen down here," the soldier's platoon leader told National Public Radio.

But were the Iraqi snipers indeed using Austrian-made armor-piercing .50 caliber weapons?

Perhaps not. There was little official American reaction to the discovery of the sniper rifle cache in February. In March, Steyr-Mannlicher claimed that U.S. authorities had yet to ask it for help in tracing the weapons, a simple matter of checking serial numbers, or even letting Austrian technicians examine the rifles. The Americans never approached the Austrian firearms firm. On March 29, Vienna's Wiener Zeitung quoted U.S. Central Command spokesman Scott Miller as admitting, "No Austrian weapons have been found in Iraq."

Upon hearing this, Steyr-Mannlicher owner Franz Holzschuh noted that the patents on the HS .50 expired "years ago," and they were being counterfeited all over the world. A quick Google search for "sniper rifles" confirms that China South Industries' AMR-2 12.7mm antimateriel rifle is a good replica of the HS .50.

In fact, Iran's Revolutionary Guards had placed large orders for Chinese sniper rifles, among other things. According to the administration official, U.S. intelligence picked up urgent messages from Iranian customers to Chinese arms factories pleading that the shipments were needed "quickly" and specifying that the "serial numbers are to be removed." The Chinese vendors, according to the intelligence, were only too happy to comply. The Chinese also suggested helpfully that the shipments be made directly from China to Iran by cargo aircraft "to minimize the possibility that the shipments will be interdicted."

According to sources who have seen the intel reports, the evidence of China-Iran arms deliveries is overwhelming. This is not a case of ambiguous intelligence. The intelligence points to Chinese government complicity in the Iranian shipments of Chinese small arms to Iraqi insurgents.

Yet top State Department and National Security Council officials prefer to believe that the relationship between Chinese government-owned and operated arms exporters and Iranian terrorists is "unofficial." Therefore, they ought not make too much out of it, lest the Chinese government be unhelpful with the North Koreans. This is the "China exception" at work; it pervades both the intelligence and national security bureaucracies. Moreover, there is a belief in some circles in the administration and on Capitol Hill that Iran's government can be "negotiated" with and therefore the activities of Tehran's Revolutionary Guards must not be seen as reflecting Iranian government policy.

Of course, it is inconceivable that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards send convoys of newly minted Chinese weapons into Iraq and Afghanistan without the clear intention of killing U.S. troops there. And it is equally inconceivable that the Chinese People's Liberation Army facilitates these shipments from its own factories and via its own air bases without the same outcome in mind. If, however, the shipments are occurring against the wishes of Beijing--if the Chinese central government cannot control the behavior of its own army--then the situation is dire indeed: How can anyone expect Beijing to restrain shipments of even more destructive weapons (missiles, submarines, torpedoes, nuclear weapons components) to rogue states? It is a prospect that U.S. officials simply cannot handle.

After leaks of this alarming intelligence surfaced in Bill Gertz's "Inside the Ring" column in the Washington Times, top Pentagon officials began to acknowledge the troubling truth behind them. On July 22, Agence France-Presse quoted the top U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, Rear Admiral Mark I. Fox, as acknowledging: "There are missiles that are actually manufactured in China that we assess come through Iran" in order to arm groups fighting U.S.-led forces.

Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Richard Lawless told the Financial Times on July 7 that the United States has "become increasingly alarmed that Chinese armor-piercing ammunition has been used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and insurgents in Iraq." The FT quoted one unnamed U.S. official as saying that the United States would like China to "do a better job of policing these sales," as if China actually wanted to "police" its arms exports.

Lawless, revered in the Pentagon as a steely-eyed China skeptic, evinced less agnosticism to the FT, explaining that the country of origin was less important than who was facilitating the transfer. One might wonder why Beijing, as a matter of policy, would sell weapons to Iran for the clear purpose of killing American soldiers. "There is a great shortfall in our understanding of China's intentions," said Lawless of China's overall military policies, and "when you don't know why they are doing it, it is pretty damn threatening. . . . They leave us no choice but to assume the worst."

Why China is "doing it" need not be a mystery. In 2004, Beijing's top America analyst, Wang Jisi, noted, "The facts have proven that it is beneficial for our international environment to have the United States militarily and diplomatically deeply sunk in the Mideast to the extent that it can hardly extricate itself." It is sobering to consider that China's small-arms proliferation behavior since then suggests that this principle is indeed guiding Chinese foreign policy.

Beijing's strategists learned much from their collaboration with Washington during the 1980s, when the two powers prosecuted a successful decade-long campaign to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. The trick is to avoid a head-to-head confrontation with your adversary while getting insurgents to keep him tied down and taking advantage of his distraction to pursue your interests elsewhere. The cynical difference is that in the Afghan war of the 1980s, the U.S.-supported mujahedeen killed tens of thousands of Soviet troops, while in the early 21st century, Iranian (and Chinese)-supported insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq are mostly killing Afghans and Iraqis.

The "China exception" notwithstanding, the ease with which Chinese state-owned munitions industries export vast quantities of small arms to violence-prone and war-ravaged areas--from Iraq and Afghanistan to Darfur--leaves no room to doubt that the Chinese government pursues this behavior as a matter of state policy. A regime with $1.3 trillion in foreign exchange reserves cannot claim that it "needs the money" and so turns a blind eye to dangerous exports by its own military. But until the scales fall from the eyes of Washington's diplomats and geopoliticians and they see China's cynical global strategy for what it is, few of the globe's current crises are likely to be resolved in America's--or democracy's--favor. In particular, U.S. soldiers and Iraqi and Afghan civilians will continue to be killed by Chinese weapons.

John J. Tkacik Jr., a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., served in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Taipei in the U.S. Foreign Service.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 05, 2007, 11:50:11 PM
Interesting point.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 06, 2007, 09:36:57 AM

Domestic Terror in Iran
Iran has just carried out the largest wave of executions since 1984.

Monday, August 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

It is early dawn as seven young men are led to the gallows amid shouts of "Allah Akbar" (Allah is the greatest) from a crowd of bearded men as a handful of women, all in hijab, ululate to a high pitch. A few minutes later, the seven are hanged as a mullah shouts: "Alhamd li-Allah" (Praise be to Allah).

The scene was Wednesday in Mashad, Iran's second most populous city, where a crackdown against "anti-Islam hooligans" has been under way for weeks.

The Mashad hangings, broadcast live on local television, are among a series of public executions ordered by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month as part of a campaign to terrorize an increasingly restive population. Over the past six weeks, at least 118 people have been executed, including four who were stoned to death. According to Saeed Mortazavi, the chief Islamic prosecutor, at least 150 more people, including five women, are scheduled to be hanged or stoned to death in the coming weeks.

The latest wave of executions is the biggest Iran has suffered in the same time span since 1984, when thousands of opposition prisoners were shot on orders from Ayatollah Khomeini.

Not all executions take place in public. In the provinces of Kurdistan and Khuzestan, where ethnic Kurdish and Arab minorities are demanding greater rights, several activists have been put to death in secret, their families informed only days after the event.

The campaign of terror also includes targeted "disappearances" designed to neutralize trade union leaders, student activists, journalists and even mullahs opposed to the regime. According to the latest tally, more than 30 people have "disappeared" since the start of the new Iranian year on March 21. To intimidate the population, the authorities also have carried out mass arrests on spurious grounds.
According to Gen. Ismail Muqaddam, commander of the Islamic Police, a total of 430,000 men and women have been arrested on charges related to drug use since April. A further 4,209 men and women, mostly aged between 15 and 30, have been arrested for "hooliganism" in Tehran alone. The largest number of arrests, totaling almost a million men and women according to Mr. Muqaddam, were related to the enforcement of the new Islamic Dress Code, passed by the Islamic Majlis (parliament) in May 2006.

Most of those arrested, he says, spent a few hours, or at most a few days, in custody as "a warning." By last week, 40,000 were still in prison. Of these, 20,363 men and women are held on charges related to violating the Islamic Dress Code. According to the Deputy Chief of Police Gen. Hussein Zulfiqari, an additional 6,204 men and women are in prison on charges of "sexual proximity" without being married.

The wave of arrests has increased pressure on the nation's inadequate prison facilities. At a recent press conference in Tehran, the head of the National Prisons Service, Ali-Akbar Yassaqi, appealed for a moratorium on arrests. He said Iran's official prisons could not house more than 50,000 prisoners simultaneously while the actual number of prisoners at any given time was above 150,000. Mr. Yassaqi also revealed that each year on average some 600,000 Iranians spend some time in one of the 130 official prisons.

Since Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered the crackdown, work on converting 41 official buildings to prisons has started, with contracts for 33 other prisons already signed. Nevertheless, Mr. Yassaqi believes that, with the annual prison population likely to top the million mark this year, even the new capacities created might prove insufficient.

There are, however, an unknown number of unofficial prisons as well, often controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or militias working for various powerful mullahs. Last week, human rights activists in Iran published details of a new prison in Souleh, northwest of Tehran, staffed by militants from the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah. According to the revelations, the Souleh prison is under the control of the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi, and used for holding the regime's most "dangerous" political foes.

The regime especially fears the growing free trade union movement. In the past four months, free trade unionists have organized 12 major strikes and 47 demonstrations in various parts of the country. They showed their muscle on International Labor Day on May 1 when tens of thousands of workers marched in Tehran and 18 provincial capitals. The regime retaliated by arresting scores of trade unionists and expelling many others.

According to Rajab-Ali Shahsavari, leader of the Union of Contractual Workers, 25,795 unionists have been fired since April. He estimates that now over 1,000 workers are losing their jobs each day, as the regime intensifies its crackdown.

Worse still, the number of suspicious deaths among workers has risen to an all-time high. According to Deputy Labor Minister Ibrahim Nazari-Jalali, 1,047 workers have died in "work-related accidents" since April. Labor sources, however, point out that none of the accidents have been investigated and, in at least 13 cases, the workers who died may have been killed by goons hired by the regime.

The biggest purge of universities since Khomeini launched his "Islamic Cultural Revolution" in 1980 is also under way. Scores of student leaders have been arrested and more than 3,000 others expelled. Labeling the crackdown the "corrective movement," Mr. Ahmadinejad wants university textbooks rewritten to "cleanse them of Infidel trash," and to include "a rebuttal of Zionist-Crusader claims" about the Holocaust. Dozens of lecturers and faculty deans have been fired.

The nationwide crackdown is accompanied with efforts to cut Iranians off from sources of information outside the Islamic Republic. More than 4,000 Internet sites have been blocked, and more are added each day. The Ministry of Islamic Orientation has established a new blacklist of authors and book titles twice longer than what it was a year ago. Since April, some 30 newspapers and magazines have been shut and their offices raided. At least 17 journalists are in prison, two already sentenced to death by hanging.

The regime is trying to mobilize its shrinking base by claiming that the Islamic Republic is under threat from internal and external foes. It was in that context that the four Iranian-American hostages held in Tehran were forced to make televised "confessions" last month about alleged plots to foment a "velvet revolution."
Over 40 people have been arrested on charges of espionage since April, 20 in the southern city of Shiraz. Khomeinist paranoia reached a new peak last week when the authorities announced, through the Islamic Republic News Agency, the capture of four squirrels in the Western city of Kermanshah and claimed that the furry creatures had been fitted with "espionage devices" by the Americans in Iraq and smuggled into the Islamic Republic.

Mr. Ahmadinejad likes to pretend that he has no worries except "Infidel plots" related to the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions. The truth is that, faced with growing popular discontent, the Khomeinist clique is vulnerable and worried, extremely worried. The outside world would do well to carefully monitor and, whenever possible, support the Iranian people's fight against the fascist regime in Tehran.

Iran today is not only about atomic bombs and Iranian-American hostages. It is also about a growing popular movement that may help bring the nation out of the dangerous impasse created by the mullahs.

Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 14, 2007, 07:53:27 AM
Why Europe Has Leverage With Iran
August 14, 2007; Page A17

European resistance to American triumphalism has its uses. But with respect to Iran, Europe's behavior is downright dangerous. Our welcome guest, French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who just visited President Bush in Maine after vacationing in New Hampshire -- could change this.

Here's the problem: The U.S. stopped investing in Iran's energy industry in the 1990s thanks to sanctions imposed during Bill Clinton's presidency. Unfortunately, Europe stepped in to fill the void, with state-owned oil firms providing capital and energy technology. Today 80% of the Iranian government's revenue comes from oil exports and sales. Without Europe's support, the theocracy's fiscal lifeline would be a very thin thread.

That provides a little context to the lament common from the European Union that Iranian nuclear weapons are "inevitable," as if they were unrelated to energy investments from their member governments.

Europe has sacrificed regional stability for profit before. In 1983, as a global recession wracked France, then-President François Mitterrand pondered "the banker's dilemma" -- whether to extend credit to a troubled debtor in hope of rescuing prior loans. The debtor was Saddam Hussein, who had invaded Iran. Iraq had become France's best arms customer.

Mitterrand ultimately thought he had little choice. His treasury had become so dependent on Iraqi trade that, as a French businessman put it to Le Monde at the time, "Iraqi defeat would be a disaster for France." So France offered Saddam a spectacular new loan of five Super Entenard fighters (advanced warplanes).

But it wasn't enough and the Iran-Iraq war dragged on for nearly eight years, threatening to engulf other Gulf States, such as Saudi Arabia. As a result, the U.S. also supplied Iraq with weapons. Yet despite U.S. support for Saddam and many billions in new credit from EU states, Iran would not be defeated. Tragically, 750,000 soldiers would die on the battlefield following France's 1983 arms deal.

Today, EU credit underwrites what could become a greater disaster. One might think that Europe, ostensibly committed to a peaceful resolution of the Iranian crisis, would seize any opportunity to force conciliation upon Tehran. As in 1983, however, Europe has put short-term profit before long-term security.

European nations disguise this choice from themselves by looking to the United Nations Security Council to impose investment sanctions on Iran. This is a ruse, because Europeans always defer to whatever watered-down measures Russia or China agree to, only to watch as Iran rejects even these.

The exercise allows Europeans to believe they are behaving responsibly. In reality, as talks lead nowhere, credit and technology flow to Iran from the state-owned or -controlled oil firms of France (Total), Norway (Statoil), Italy (ENI) and Spain (Repsol). Clearly, standalone European sanctions could do a lot.

Unfortunately, Europe's oil firms are not merely investors in the terror state. France's Total has reached even lower. Hostage to its recent investments, Total has developed a foreign policy all its own: outright pro-Iranian advocacy. "The Iran Daily" reported recently that a Total executive "called on foreign entrepreneurs to avoid black propaganda and incorrect conceptions about the country."

Total seems to be complaining about verbatim repetition in the Western media of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's own utterances. The executive went on to boast of Total's investment leadership in Iran. While this astonishing behavior preceded Mr. Sarkozy's election, the president has neither rebuked the firm nor stood against further investment in Iran.

The good news is that Iran's regime is vulnerable economically. Government spending has outstripped revenue increases from rising oil prices, while oil exports are stagnant or declining. Gasoline rationing, once politically unthinkable, was implemented nationwide last month. Emblematic of its isolation is Iran's refusal to pay off a tiny debt owed to Russia for the Bushehr nuclear reactor. Iran's fear is that Russia will abandon it once the debt is retired. All of this, of course, makes it questionable whether Iranian nuclear weapons are really "inevitable."

However lamentable and confrontational President Bush's rhetoric may be, the U.S. has at least tried to constrain Iran peacefully using sanctions. Similar European pressure is desperately needed now. It's the one thing short of U.N. sanctions that might force Tehran to be conciliatory.

But that's up to Mr. Sarkozy. He could take the lead by pushing a prohibition on new French energy investment in Iran until that country verifiably rejects and abandons nuclear weapons development. He could also demand that fellow-EU leaders do the same. Oh, and Mr. Sarkozy, please come again.

Mr. Stern is a research associate in the department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University.

Title: Folly on the March
Post by: buzwardo on August 14, 2007, 11:11:34 AM
On the Brink
Washington is a wonder on Iran.

By Michael Ledeen

President Bush is annoyed that Afghan President Karzai and Iraqi President Maliki are both speaking about Iran in words reserved for an ally, rather than the main engine driving the terror wars in their countries. But if you look at the world through their eyes, it is easy enough to understand. They fear that the Americans will soon leave, and the Iranians will still be there. They know that Iran is a mortal threat, and they are now making a down payment on the insurance costs that are sure to come if the Democrats in Washington have their way. For extras, Maliki has certainly noticed that the United States is paying off the Middle Eastern Sunnis, hoping that the Saudis, Jordanians, and Gulf States will manage to contain Iran in the future. This cannot be good news in Baghdad, where the Shiites are struggling to put together a government capable of managing the country’s myriad crises.

All of this has been superbly summarized in Michael Yon’s latest ruminations on the course of the battle for Iraq:

Our military has increasing moral authority in Iraq, but the same cannot be said for our government at home. In fact, it’s in moral deficit because many Iraqis are increasingly frightened we will abandon them to genocide. The Iraqis I speak with couldn’t care less what is said from Washington but large numbers of them pay close attention to what some Marine Gunny says, or what American battalion commanders all over Iraq say. Some of our commanders could probably run for local offices in Iraq, and win.
There are many reasons for the respect of Iraqis for our fighters, starting with the fact that the military is currently the best institution in America, and our military men and women are several notches above the politicians, intellectuals and journalists in moral fiber and bravery. You can see that in the way the military deals with the Iranian intrusion in Iraq and Afghanistan. The politicians, diplomats, and spooks downplay the Iranian role, reshaping the facts to fit their desire for a “negotiated solution” they know in their heart of hearts will never be accomplished. But our military officers, whose troops are being blown up by Iranian explosives or Iranian-trained suicide bombers or gunned down by Iranian-trained snipers, are laying out the facts for anyone who cares to know what’s going on. Happily, at least some folks are listening (thank you, Senator Lieberman). Most Iraqis know the truth; it’s the Americans who need the education.

That the Iranians are at the heart of the region’s violence is proven most every day. So while Karzai was publicly kissing up to Tehran, Colonel Rahmatullah Safi, the head of the border police along the Iranian frontier, told the London Times “it is clear to everyone that Iran is supporting the enemy of Afghanistan, the Taliban,” and U.S. Army Colonel Thomas Kelly confirmed that the infamous EPFs, the new generation of explosive devices that can penetrate most American armor, are now coming into Afghanistan. Col. Kelly notes that these devices “really are not manufactured in any other place to our knowledge than Iran.”

The same holds true in Iraq, where these devices accounted for a third of American combat deaths in July (99 such attacks were directed against us — an all-time high). General Odierno blamed 73 percent of attacks on Iranian-supported Shiite terrorists. As Michael Gordon reports for the New York Times,

American intelligence says that its report of Iranian involvement is based on a technical analysis of exploded and captured devices, interrogations of Shi’ite militants, the interdiction of trucks near Iran’s border with Iraq and parallels between the use of the weapons in Iran and in southern Lebanon by Hezbollah.

Some might suspect that our military leaders are presenting the case against Iran because they want to expand the war, and march on Tehran, but nothing of the sort is taking place. They are simply performing the task that theoretically lies with the so-called intelligence community. Our leaders have to be told the truth, even if it makes them scream. I have no doubt that Secretary of State Rice does not want to hear these things, because they give the lie to her claim that we are making progress in our talks with the Iranians. In fact, Iran has stepped up its terrorist activity in Iraq since we started talking to them. The actual words of Ambassador Crocker — who says he’s been very tough, and I’m inclined to believe him — don’t really matter to the mullahs; they say lots of things, too, and don’t expect them to be taken at face value. It’s the fact that (as they see it) we were compelled to come to them that matters.

In reality — for what little it matters nowadays, either here or in the Middle East — we are winning the battle of Iraq. The percentage increase in Iranian activity, combined with a drop in the number of attacks, is another way of saying that al Qaeda is being destroyed for a second time, and the Iranians are scrambling to fill the void. But they are on the run, just as is al Qaeda, as you can tell by the back-and-forth shuttling of their factotum Moqtadah al Sadr, between Iran and Iraq. If their scheme was working in Iraq, he’d sit still. He’s scrambling because they’re in trouble.

They’re in trouble at home, too. Indeed, things are so bad that the government itself has open fissures, the latest caused by the resignation of the minister of industry and mines, and by the public testimony of the minister of welfare:

The welfare minister, Abdol-Reza Mesri, appeared at the Majlis social committee on Saturday and announced that about 9.2 million Iranians live below the absolute poverty line. About 10.5 percent of residents in urban and 11 percent of residents in rural areas live below the absolute poverty line. Nevertheless, Mr. Mesri insisted that indicators used in computing the poverty line must be changed. The minister’s persistent suggestion to abandon internationally recognized methods of computing the poverty line has been met with the reaction of experts and professionals.
In simple English, there is so much poverty in Iran that the minister wants to change the reporting requirements so that nobody can really know the full dimensions of the Iranian people’s misery. Even their current language (what is “the absolute poverty line” anyway?) is designed to mislead.

Iranians are not stupid people; they know they are ruled by tyrannical incompetents. Listen to the words of one Reza Zarabi, in the August 5 Jerusalem Post: “Iranians have become accustomed to dictators, yet an incompetent despot that bases his economic policies on the future benevolence of the coming Islamic Messiah is another thing altogether...It is quite remarkable for such economic damage and global ridicule to be heaped upon a nation in (so) short a time. Yet the policies of the current Iranian administration have left nothing for the imagination.”

I ask you, is this not a perfect description of a revolutionary situation? And you reply: So why aren’t we doing anything about it? Which, I think, is precisely the question our military leaders in Iraq, and the people of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, are aiming at Washington.

National Review Online -
Title: Iran on the Brink?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 14, 2007, 06:23:29 PM
On the Brink
Washington is a wonder on Iran.

By Michael Ledeen

President Bush is annoyed that Afghan President Karzai and Iraqi President Maliki are both speaking about Iran in words reserved for an ally, rather than the main engine driving the terror wars in their countries. But if you look at the world through their eyes, it is easy enough to understand. They fear that the Americans will soon leave, and the Iranians will still be there. They know that Iran is a mortal threat, and they are now making a down payment on the insurance costs that are sure to come if the Democrats in Washington have their way. For extras, Maliki has certainly noticed that the United States is paying off the Middle Eastern Sunnis, hoping that the Saudis, Jordanians, and Gulf States will manage to contain Iran in the future. This cannot be good news in Baghdad, where the Shiites are struggling to put together a government capable of managing the country’s myriad crises.

All of this has been superbly summarized in Michael Yon’s latest ruminations on the course of the battle for Iraq:

Our military has increasing moral authority in Iraq, but the same cannot be said for our government at home. In fact, it’s in moral deficit because many Iraqis are increasingly frightened we will abandon them to genocide. The Iraqis I speak with couldn’t care less what is said from Washington but large numbers of them pay close attention to what some Marine Gunny says, or what American battalion commanders all over Iraq say. Some of our commanders could probably run for local offices in Iraq, and win.
There are many reasons for the respect of Iraqis for our fighters, starting with the fact that the military is currently the best institution in America, and our military men and women are several notches above the politicians, intellectuals and journalists in moral fiber and bravery. You can see that in the way the military deals with the Iranian intrusion in Iraq and Afghanistan. The politicians, diplomats, and spooks downplay the Iranian role, reshaping the facts to fit their desire for a “negotiated solution” they know in their heart of hearts will never be accomplished. But our military officers, whose troops are being blown up by Iranian explosives or Iranian-trained suicide bombers or gunned down by Iranian-trained snipers, are laying out the facts for anyone who cares to know what’s going on. Happily, at least some folks are listening (thank you, Senator Lieberman). Most Iraqis know the truth; it’s the Americans who need the education.

That the Iranians are at the heart of the region’s violence is proven most every day. So while Karzai was publicly kissing up to Tehran, Colonel Rahmatullah Safi, the head of the border police along the Iranian frontier, told the London Times “it is clear to everyone that Iran is supporting the enemy of Afghanistan, the Taliban,” and U.S. Army Colonel Thomas Kelly confirmed that the infamous EPFs, the new generation of explosive devices that can penetrate most American armor, are now coming into Afghanistan. Col. Kelly notes that these devices “really are not manufactured in any other place to our knowledge than Iran.”

The same holds true in Iraq, where these devices accounted for a third of American combat deaths in July (99 such attacks were directed against us — an all-time high). General Odierno blamed 73 percent of attacks on Iranian-supported Shiite terrorists. As Michael Gordon reports for the New York Times,

American intelligence says that its report of Iranian involvement is based on a technical analysis of exploded and captured devices, interrogations of Shi’ite militants, the interdiction of trucks near Iran’s border with Iraq and parallels between the use of the weapons in Iran and in southern Lebanon by Hezbollah.

Some might suspect that our military leaders are presenting the case against Iran because they want to expand the war, and march on Tehran, but nothing of the sort is taking place. They are simply performing the task that theoretically lies with the so-called intelligence community. Our leaders have to be told the truth, even if it makes them scream. I have no doubt that Secretary of State Rice does not want to hear these things, because they give the lie to her claim that we are making progress in our talks with the Iranians. In fact, Iran has stepped up its terrorist activity in Iraq since we started talking to them. The actual words of Ambassador Crocker — who says he’s been very tough, and I’m inclined to believe him — don’t really matter to the mullahs; they say lots of things, too, and don’t expect them to be taken at face value. It’s the fact that (as they see it) we were compelled to come to them that matters.

In reality — for what little it matters nowadays, either here or in the Middle East — we are winning the battle of Iraq. The percentage increase in Iranian activity, combined with a drop in the number of attacks, is another way of saying that al Qaeda is being destroyed for a second time, and the Iranians are scrambling to fill the void. But they are on the run, just as is al Qaeda, as you can tell by the back-and-forth shuttling of their factotum Moqtadah al Sadr, between Iran and Iraq. If their scheme was working in Iraq, he’d sit still. He’s scrambling because they’re in trouble.

They’re in trouble at home, too. Indeed, things are so bad that the government itself has open fissures, the latest caused by the resignation of the minister of industry and mines, and by the public testimony of the minister of welfare:

The welfare minister, Abdol-Reza Mesri, appeared at the Majlis social committee on Saturday and announced that about 9.2 million Iranians live below the absolute poverty line. About 10.5 percent of residents in urban and 11 percent of residents in rural areas live below the absolute poverty line. Nevertheless, Mr. Mesri insisted that indicators used in computing the poverty line must be changed. The minister’s persistent suggestion to abandon internationally recognized methods of computing the poverty line has been met with the reaction of experts and professionals.
In simple English, there is so much poverty in Iran that the minister wants to change the reporting requirements so that nobody can really know the full dimensions of the Iranian people’s misery. Even their current language (what is “the absolute poverty line” anyway?) is designed to mislead.

Iranians are not stupid people; they know they are ruled by tyrannical incompetents. Listen to the words of one Reza Zarabi, in the August 5 Jerusalem Post: “Iranians have become accustomed to dictators, yet an incompetent despot that bases his economic policies on the future benevolence of the coming Islamic Messiah is another thing altogether...It is quite remarkable for such economic damage and global ridicule to be heaped upon a nation in (so) short a time. Yet the policies of the current Iranian administration have left nothing for the imagination.”

I ask you, is this not a perfect description of a revolutionary situation? And you reply: So why aren’t we doing anything about it? Which, I think, is precisely the question our military leaders in Iraq, and the people of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, are aiming at Washington.

National Review Online -
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 15, 2007, 07:59:44 AM
Iranian Unit to Be Labeled 'Terrorist'
U.S. Moving Against Revolutionary Guard

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 15, 2007; A01

The United States has decided to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country's 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a "specially designated global terrorist," according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group's business operations and finances.
The Bush administration has chosen to move against the Revolutionary Guard Corps because of what U.S. officials have described as its growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East, the sources said. The decision follows congressional pressure on the administration to toughen its stance against Tehran, as well as U.S. frustration with the ineffectiveness of U.N. resolutions against Iran's nuclear program, officials said.

The designation of the Revolutionary Guard will be made under Executive Order 13224, which President Bush signed two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to obstruct terrorist funding. It authorizes the United States to identify individuals, businesses, charities and extremist groups engaged in terrorist activities. The Revolutionary Guard would be the first national military branch included on the list, U.S. officials said -- a highly unusual move because it is part of a government, rather than a typical non-state terrorist organization.

The order allows the United States to block the assets of terrorists and to disrupt operations by foreign businesses that "provide support, services or assistance to, or otherwise associate with, terrorists."
The move reflects escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran over issues including Iraq and Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran has been on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1984, but in May the two countries began their first formal one-on-one dialogue in 28 years with a meeting of diplomats in Baghdad.

The main goal of the new designation is to clamp down on the Revolutionary Guard's vast business network, as well as on foreign companies conducting business linked to the military unit and its personnel. The administration plans to list many of the Revolutionary Guard's financial operations.

"Anyone doing business with these people will have to reevaluate their actions immediately," said a U.S. official familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced. "It increases the risks of people who have until now ignored the growing list of sanctions against the Iranians. It makes clear to everyone who the IRGC and their related businesses really are. It removes the excuses for doing business with these people."

For weeks, the Bush administration has been debating whether to target the Revolutionary Guard Corps in full, or only its Quds Force wing, which U.S. officials have linked to the growing flow of explosives, roadside bombs, rockets and other arms to Shiite militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Quds Force also lends support to Shiite allies such as Lebanon's Hezbollah and to Sunni movements such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Although administration discussions continue, the initial decision is to target the entire Guard Corps, U.S. officials said. The administration has not yet decided when to announce the new measure, but officials said they would prefer to do so before the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly next month, when the United States intends to increase international pressure against Iran.

Formed in 1979 and originally tasked with protecting the world's only modern theocracy, the Revolutionary Guard took the lead in battling Iraq during the bloody Iran-Iraq war waged from 1980 to 1988. The Guard, also known as the Pasdaran, has since become a powerful political and economic force in Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose through the ranks of the Revolutionary Guard and came to power with support from its network of veterans. Its leaders are linked to many mainstream businesses in Iran.

"They are heavily involved in everything from pharmaceuticals to telecommunications and pipelines -- even the new Imam Khomeini Airport and a great deal of smuggling," said Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations. "Many of the front companies engaged in procuring nuclear technology are owned and run by the Revolutionary Guards. They're developing along the lines of the Chinese military, which is involved in many business enterprises. It's a huge business conglomeration."
The Revolutionary Guard Corps -- with its own navy, air force, ground forces and special forces units -- is a rival to Iran's conventional troops. Its naval forces abducted 15 British sailors and marines this spring, sparking an international crisis, and its special forces armed Lebanon's Hezbollah with missiles used against Israel in the 2006 war. The corps also plays a key role in Iran's military industries, including the attempted acquisition of nuclear weapons and surface-to-surface missiles, according to Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The United States took punitive action against Iran after the November 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, including the breaking of diplomatic ties and the freezing of Iranian assets in the United States. More recently, dozens of international banks and financial institutions reduced or eliminated their business with Iran after a quiet campaign by the Treasury Department and State Department aimed at limiting Tehran's access to the international financial system. Over the past year, two U.N. resolutions have targeted the assets and movements of 28 people -- including some Revolutionary Guard members -- linked to Iran's nuclear program.

The key obstacle to stronger international pressure against Tehran has been China, Iran's largest trading partner. After the Iranian government refused to comply with two U.N. Security Council resolutions dealing with its nuclear program, Beijing balked at a U.S. proposal for a resolution that would have sanctioned the Revolutionary Guard, U.S. officials said.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 16, 2007, 10:08:56 PM
U.S.: Upping the Ante with Iran
August 15, 2007 14 08  GMT


The United States has just significantly upped the ante in negotiations with Iran over Iraq by threatening to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. The thought of designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization has been floating in the U.S. Congress for some time now, but Washington has a clear purpose in sending strong hints to Iran that the decision is imminent at this stage of the Iraq negotiations.


The United States has just significantly upped the ante in negotiations with Iran over Iraq by threatening to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. The threat, leaked by anonymous U.S. officials to The Washington Post, is an intentional message to Iran.

The message is this: We are not content with your negotiating position, and if you think you are the only side that can ratchet up the level of pain in this situation, you are wrong.

Stratfor has long contended that the negotiations between Washington and Tehran are the key to any possible settlement on the Iraq issue, and that if a deal is to be reached, things will look like they are descending into chaos immediately prior. This is standard bargaining. Each side has to appear as though it is willing to walk away from the table, to the detriment of the other side.

The flip side to this gambit is that if a deal is not reached, Washington has just added much more fuel to the fire.

Sanctions are at best an imprecise tool, but Washington's heavy leaning on Europe has made them much more effective of late. The thought of designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization has been floating in the U.S. Congress for some time now, but Washington has a clear purpose in sending strong hints to Iran that the decision is imminent at this stage of the Iraq negotiations.

There are two implications to this designation. The first and most important right now is money. The United States has long grappled with the challenge of pressuring the international community -- which includes many of Tehran's major energy clients -- to enforce harmful sanctions against Iran. Instead of going through the formal U.N. Security Council sanctions process, Washington has focused instead on a financial strangulation policy that basically involves targeting a number of financial institutions worldwide. The message to these foreign businesses and banks is plain: Continue doing business with Iran and risk losing your business in the United States. Without major international banks' willingness to facilitate Iran's transactions, Tehran will have fewer and fewer options for making purchases without using actual cash. It simply is not possible to operate millions of dollars in transactions daily with suitcases full of cash.

Iran is genuinely suffering from the financial sanctions, which are generating significant domestic pressure on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. By designating the IRGC a terrorist organization, the United States has many more tools at its disposal to cut off funding to an international network that not only fights for Iran, but also finances its fighting through a number of business ventures, ranging from pipeline construction to pharmaceuticals. The current sanctions regime has been increasingly effective, and this new set of tools could put Iran's finances in lockdown. Labeling the IRGC as a terrorist entity, rather than an official state security apparatus, also could significantly hamper Iran's defense deals. By homing in on the wealthiest and most senior IRGC commanders, the United States is threatening the stability of the Islamic Republic and Ahmadinejad's support network.

There also is the symbolic aspect of further isolating Iran and making it appear as less of a legitimate player in the international community. Iran wants to be recognized as a legitimate regional power -- and it cannot be that when its Revolutionary Guard Corps is considered a terrorist organization.

The ball is in Iran's court now.
Title: Wait for a Humiliated Theocracy?
Post by: buzwardo on August 31, 2007, 12:43:55 PM
Don’t Bomb, Bomb Iran
For now, we should avoid a smoking Tehran.

By Victor Davis Hanson

There’s been ever more talk on Iran. President Bush — worried about both Americans being killed by Iranian mines in Iraq, and Tehran’s progress toward uranium enrichment — is ratcheting up the rhetoric.
But so mirabile dictu is French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He suddenly, in the eleventh hour of the crisis, reminds the world that bombing Iran is still very possible (and he doesn’t specify by whom):

An Iran with nuclear arms is, to me, unacceptable, and I am weighing my words…And I underline France's full determination to support the alliance's current policy of increasing sanctions, but also to remain open if Iran makes the choice to fulfill its obligations. This policy is the only one that will allow us to escape an alternative, which I consider to be catastrophic. Which alternative? An Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.
Note especially the French president’s reference to “us” and the logic of his syllogism: Iran can’t and won’t have the bomb; one catastrophic remedy is bombing; therefore someone must increase sanctions or someone will bomb Iran, as the least bad of two awful alternatives. He can say all that — without the global hatred that George Bush would incur had he said half that.

Mohamed Ahmadinejad is still ranting, but with more a sense of false braggadocio than ever: Iran will inherit the mantel of Middle East hegemony; America is running from Iraq; our policies have already failed in Iraq — blah, blah, blah.

So what exactly is the status of the crisis?

Recall the current U.S. policy — which, I think, so far remains bipartisan except for a few unhinged calls for full diplomatic engagement with this murderous regime:

Show the world that Americans tried the European route with the EU3 (Britain, France, German) negotiations that have so far failed; let the U.N. jawbone (so what?); help Iranian dissidents and democratic reformers; keep trying to stabilize Iran’s reforming neighbors in Afghanistan and Iraq; persuade Russia, China, and India to cooperate in ostracizing Iran; galvanize global financial institutions to isolate the Iranian economy; apprise the world that an Iranian nuclear device is unacceptable — and hope all that pressure works before the theocrats have enough enriched uranium to get a bomb and, as Persian nationalists, win back public approval inside Iran.

The degree to which Iran has neared completion of bomb-making will determine to what degree all of the above has hurt, helped, or had no effect.

But there are subtle indications that U.S. policy is slowly working, and that a strike now on Iran would be a grave mistake, in every strategic and political sense — not to mention the humanitarian one of harming a populace that may well soon prove to be the most pro-Western in the region.

It is surreal, after all, that a French president would confess that Iran getting the bomb is “unacceptable.” Sarkozy seems to recognize that a nuclear Iran won’t be happy with bullying neighboring oil producers and carving up Iraq, but will be soon blackmailing Europe on issues from trade to war.

So finally a French leader seems to allow that if the Europeans would just cease all financial relations with Teheran, freeze their assets, and stop sending them everything from sniper rifles to machine tools, then the crippled regime would start to stagger even more. And because France has been the most obstructionist in the past to U.S. efforts in the Middle East, its mere rhetoric is nearly beyond belief.

We have no leverage with China and Russia, of course. Their general foreign policy is reactive, based on the principle that anything that disturbs the United States and diverts its attention is de facto a positive development — excepting perhaps having another nuclear nut in Asia to go alongside North Korea and Pakistan.

Still, the recent humiliating disclosures about China’s 19th-century “Jungle”-type industry, and the growing anger at what Mr. Sarkozy called Russia’s “brutality,” show that neither country has earned much respect, and that either could pull in its horns a bit concerning Iran, with deft Western diplomacy.

There are other symptoms of progress. The Sadr brigades have purportedly announced a cessation of military operations — no doubt, because they are losing the sectarian kill-fest. But it may also be because Shiite animosity against them is growing. Perhaps too they are learning that Iran’s interest in Iraq is not always theirs, but simply fomenting violence of any kind that persuades the U.S. military to leave, including arming their enemies, both Sunni and Shiite.

Every Shiite gangster should note that Iran’s envisioned future is not one of coequal mafias, but rather a mere concession in the south that takes orders from the real bosses in the north. The jury is still out on whether it is true that Arab Shiites are Shiites first, and Arabs second or third. But at some point someone will start to figure out that Iran also gave arms and aid to al Qaeda to kill Iraqi Shiites.

No one knows quite what is going on in Iraq. Yet news that the surge is working and that violence is declining is also bad news for Tehran. Its worst nightmare is that Sunni tribes are no longer aping al Qaeda, but helping Americans. That will only turn attention back to Iranian-back killers. Meanwhile Sunni masters in the region — arming themselves to the teeth — are reminding their kindred Iraqi tribesmen that Iran, not America, is the real enemy of the Arab world.

And what is our stance? The United States calmly continues to arrest and “detain” Iranian agents inside Iraq — acts, of course, that enrage a kidnapping Iran. Apparently the only thing galling to an Iranian hostage-taker is the very idea that someone else would try such a thing openly and publicly and within the bounds of the rules of war. And by labeling the Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization, the United States is finally institutionalizing what the world already knows: Iran is a criminal state whose government and terrorists are one and the same.

There is also the ever-present, ever-unreliable news out of Iran itself of gas rationing, strikes, and a deteriorating economy. If all that good for us/bad for them news is true — with oil prices still sky-high, and sanctions as yet weak and porous — then it suggests that should financial ostracism be stepped up and become really punitive, and oil recede in price by even a few dollars, the regime would face widespread disobedience.

It would help things if Western elites started seeing Iran as Darfur. Teheran has butchered thousands of its own, kills the innocent in Iraq, and has stated that it would like to see the equivalent of a second Holocaust — all surely some grounds for at least a dig from Bono or a frown from Brad Pitt.

It doesn’t help Ahmadinejad that his supposedly successful, rocket-propelled proxy war against Israel a year ago, not only was not followed up by a round-two jihad this season, but seems on careful autopsy to have been a costly blunder that nearly destroyed the infrastructure of his southern Lebanese allies. No Iranian in gas line wants to learn that his scrimping went to pay for rebuilding the atomized apartment buildings of Arabs in Lebanon.

The oddest development of all is Iranian outrage at the U.N. — a sentiment almost impossible to entertain for any such corrupt, anti-American regime. But Iran’s chief delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali-Ashgar Soltanieh, keeps screaming about international monitoring. He threatens this and that, which can only mean Iran fears the global humiliation of having inspectors expose the fact that puritanical, live-by-Koran clerics are serial liars.

Of course, there is no reason yet to believe that Iran’s megalomaniac plans are stalled. There is much less reason to think that the world is galvanizing fast or furiously enough against the loony Ahmadinejad. But there are some positive signs that Iran is not nearly as strong as it thinks, and the general winds of the world are blowing against it, ever so slowly — and thanks in large part to careful U.S. policy and the innately self-destructive tendencies of Iranian theocracy.

Note that the loud Democratic 2008 candidates have ceased calling for direct talks with Iran (the inexperienced Obama, the exception proving the rule). They can offer no policy other than the present one. For all the dangers, the spectacle of Ahmadinejad has been a great gift to the Western world — loudly embodying, in its raw, pure form, the evil which Iranian theocracy inevitably produces.

So we should continue with the present path — and not bomb or have surrogates bomb Iran. That option is still down the road. For as long as it is possible, the best-case scenario is not a smoking Iran, but a humiliated theocracy that slowly implodes before the world, displaying in their disgrace what the mullahs did to themselves — and perhaps a small reminder of those helpful shoves from us.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

National Review Online -
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 16, 2007, 04:23:24 PM

By Francois Murphy 1 hour, 32 minutes ago

PARIS (Reuters) - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday his country must prepare for the possibility of war against Iran over its nuclear program, but he did not believe any such action was imminent.

Seeking to ratchet up the pressure on Iran, Kouchner also told RTL radio and LCI television that the world's major powers should use further sanctions to show they were serious about stopping Tehran getting atom bombs, and said France had asked French firms not to bid for tenders in the Islamic Republic.

"We must prepare for the worst," Kouchner said in an interview, adding: "The worst, sir, is war."

Asked about the preparations, he said it was normal to prepare for various eventualities.

"We are preparing ourselves by trying to put together plans that are the chiefs of staff's prerogative (but) that is not about to happen tomorrow," he added.

Tehran insists it only wants to master nuclear technology to produce electricity, but it has yet to comply with repeated U.N. demands that it suspend uranium enrichment and other sensitive work that could potentially be used in producing weapons.

Kouchner's comments follow a similarly hawkish statement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said last month in his first major foreign policy speech since taking office that a diplomatic push by the world's powers was the only alternative to "an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."

Asked if France was involved in any planning towards war, he said: "The French army is not at the moment associated with anything at all, nor with any maneuver at all."


France has said repeatedly it wants the U.N. Security Council to pass tougher sanctions against Iran over its failure to dispel fears that it is secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.

"We do not want to signal anything other than 'peace is in your interest, and in ours too,"' Kouchner said, adding that the door should be left open to negotiations with Tehran, but Paris has made a suspension of nuclear work a condition for talks.

The United States, Germany, France and Britain have led a diplomatic drive to punish Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program. They succeeded in persuading reluctant Russia and China to back two U.N. sanctions resolutions.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tehran would not give up its nuclear program.

"Of course we will not abandon our right to nuclear technology," he told state television. "They (the West) talks about imposing sanctions on Iran, but they can not do it."

Washington says the time has to expand the penalties and has called a September 21 meeting of the six powers to discuss a third sanctions resolution to submit to the U.N. Security Council.

Kouchner said France had asked its biggest companies, including oil giant Total and gas firm Gaz de France, not to bid for projects in Iran.

"We have already asked a certain number of our large companies to not respond to tenders, and it is a way of signaling that we are serious," Kouchner said.

"We are not banning French companies from submitting. We have advised them not to. These are private companies. But I think that it has been heard and we are not the only ones to have done this."

In addition, Paris and Berlin were preparing possible European Union economic sanctions against Tehran, Kouchner said.

"We have decided to ... prepare ourselves for possible sanctions outside the U.N. sanctions and which would be European sanctions. Our German friends proposed it. We discussed it a few days ago," Kouchner said.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 17, 2007, 09:06:32 AM

1139 GMT -- IRAN, UNITED STATES -- The Iranian military has the capacity to strike U.S. interests in the Middle East within a 1,250-mile range, Gen. Mohammad Hassan Koussechi, a top official in Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Sept. 17. The U.S. Army has encircled Iran, but if it strikes on any of the 2,000 Iranian targets it has identified, it will be attacked, Koussechi said. Separately, Iran's official media has launched a campaign accusing French President Nicolas Sarkozy of being driven by U.S. interests. The campaign was triggered by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's comments about a possible war with Iran.

1112 GMT -- IRAN -- Iran will reconsider its $15 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal with French oil firm Total because of differences over the price paid to Tehran, Iranian Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari said Sept. 16. Iran, which believes Total's price to market the agreed 5.5 million tons of LNG is too high, asked Total to submit a new quote earlier this year. "We think this amount should be supplied to the market and not to Total," Nozari said.

0145 GMT -- FRANCE, IRAN -- French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned Sept. 16 that the world must prepare for the possibility of war with Iran over its nuclear development program. He said the possibility is unlikely, but that the world "must prepare for the worst."
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 18, 2007, 08:50:31 AM
Iran Warns German Banks: If You Leave, Don’t Come Back
August 23, 2007 | From
Financial broadsides between Berlin and Tehran could presage more dangerous exchanges in the future.

European financial institutions appear to be bowing to U.S. pressure to pull out of Iran. The Islamic Republic has responded by threatening to bar these entities from ever doing business in Iran again. The episode reveals mounting tensions between Iran and Europe that could grow much worse with time. reported the Financial Times Deutschland as saying “that European financial institutions feared losing out on lucrative business with the United States if they remained active in Iran, after U.S. officials threatened the banks’ boards with consequences.”
msnbc said the U.S. Treasury had conducted a “vigorous lobbying campaign” with banks worldwide to restrict their business with Iran.

Several European financial institutions have begun paring down their activities with Iranian customers as a result. On July 30, Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, said it will conclude its business in Iran this September.

Though the bank cited a lack of financial return on its investments there, observers noted that it made its decision shortly after receiving a visit from the U.S. Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Now Iran has fired its first shot back. Tehran says any bank that withdraws from Iran won’t be welcome back.

“We’re not happy with [Deutsche Bank’s] decision,” said the vice governor of Iran’s central bank to Financial Times Deutschland. “There is no guarantee that one can return when the good times are here again.” He said competitors throughout the region and in Asia and Russia would fill the void left by Germany.
The German banks dismissively say they lose virtually nothing by pulling away from Iran.

Worth noting is that although Germany is heavily dependent upon oil imports, it appears to have weaned itself off Iranian oil this year.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 18, 2007, 09:01:17 AM
After Talk of War, Cooler Words in France on Iran
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Published: September 18, 2007
MOSCOW, Sept. 17 — France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, sought Monday to tone down remarks he made in a radio and television interview the day before that the world had to prepare for possible war against Iran.

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Stephane Ruet, via Associated Press
Bernard Kouchner said Sunday that it was “necessary to prepare” for war with Iran.
Attacked verbally by Iran and quietly criticized within his own government, Mr. Kouchner shifted the focus away from the threat of war and back to a call for hard negotiations as the way to force Iran to abandon key nuclear activities.

“The worst situation would be war,” Mr. Kouchner told journalists en route to Moscow. “And to avoid the worst, the French position is very clear: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate, and work with our European friends on credible sanctions.”

On Sunday, Mr. Kouchner, a Socialist known for his blunt talk, said in an interview broadcast on RTL radio and LCI television: “We will negotiate until the end. And at the same time we must prepare ourselves.”

Asked what he meant in referring to preparation, he replied, “It is necessary to prepare for the worst,” adding, “The worst, it’s war, sir.”

Asked again to explain himself, Mr. Kouchner announced that France was doing military contingency planning for an eventual war, saying, “We are preparing by trying first of all to put together plans that are the unique prerogative of the chiefs of staff, but that — it’s not for tomorrow.”

Lost in the off-the-cuff and freewheeling remarks about war planning was his other, less alarmist message: that France is committed to using diplomacy to resolve the nuclear crisis with Iran, that no military action is planned and that he did not believe there would be an American military intervention while President Bush was in office.

But his remarks fueled speculation that France was moving closer to the Bush administration position that all options — including war — are on the table.

On Monday, Prime Minister François Fillon, a former labor and education minister, appeared to support Mr. Kouchner, adding to the sense that France’s stance had hardened.

Asked during a visit to an army base at Angoulême about Mr. Kouchner’s mention of war against Iran, Mr. Fillon replied, “The foreign affairs minister is right because everybody can see that the situation in the Near East is extremely tense and that it’s getting worse.”

Like Mr. Kouchner, he stressed that all steps must be taken to avoid war.

Adding to the confusion, the Foreign Ministry seemed to distance itself somewhat from Mr. Kouchner’s remarks. A deputy spokesman, Denis Simonneau, referred journalists on Monday to a speech President Nicolas Sarkozy made last month in which he also said Iran could be attacked militarily if it did not curb its nuclear program, but that such an outcome would be a disaster. He gave no indication that France would ever participate in military action against Iran or even tacitly support such an approach.

The Foreign Ministry instructed its diplomatic missions around the world to use the same, more cautious, formulation, ministry officials said.

Mr. Kouchner’s reference to war on Sunday infuriated Iran, which accused France of moving closer to Washington.

“The use of such words creates tensions and is contrary to the cultural history and civilization of France,” said Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Muhammad Ali Hosseini, in a statement on Monday.

An editorial in the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency on Monday said, “The new occupants of the Élysée want to copy the White House.”

In Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, called for calm. “I would not talk about any use of force,” he said.

Stressing that only the Security Council could authorize the use of force, he urged the world to remember the lesson of Iraq before considering military action against Iran. “We need to be cool,” he said.

Certainly, France under President Sarkozy has toughened its policy toward Iran. Mindful that a third round of sanctions in the United Nations Security Council is unlikely for at least several months, France has begun to push an initiative for separate European sanctions against Iran.

Mr. Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, also took a hard line against Iran’s nuclear program but was much less inclined to use sanctions, because, as he often said, he did not believe they were effective.

France’s foreign intelligence service has a shorter timeline for Iran’s prospects for producing a nuclear weapon than that of American intelligence, according to senior French officials. American intelligence analysts put that date between 2010 and 2015.

In Paris before heading to Moscow for bilateral talks on Iran and other issues, Mr. Kouchner said European countries should prepare their own sanctions outside of the United Nations.

“These would be European sanctions that each country, individually, must put in place with its own banking, commercial and industrial system,” he said. “The English and the Germans are interested in talking about this.”

While some officials inside the French government felt that Mr. Kouchner had done no harm with his mention of war, others said he should have been more disciplined in his choice of words.

“In an ideal world he wouldn’t have answered the questions in the way he did,” said one French official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on diplomatic issues. “His words were not completely thought out and scripted. It doesn’t mean there is a change of policy.”

Katrin Bennhold reported from Moscow, and Elaine Sciolino from Paris. Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran, and Nicola Clark from Paris.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 24, 2007, 09:44:56 AM
Although the NY Times is always a source to be read with alertness for distortions, I found the following piece very interesting.

TEHRAN — When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was first elected president, he said Iran had more important issues to worry about than how women dress. He even called for allowing women into soccer games, a revolutionary idea for revolutionary Iran.

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New York Grudgingly Opens the Door (September 24, 2007)
Times Topics:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
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Vahid Salemi/Associated Press
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, surrounded by Iranian officials, reading the Koran Sunday before leaving Tehran.
Today, Iran is experiencing the most severe crackdown on social behavior and dress in years, and women are often barred from smoking in public, let alone attending a stadium event.

Since his inauguration two years ago, Mr. Ahmadinejad has grabbed headlines around the world, and in Iran, for outrageous statements that often have no more likelihood of being put into practice than his plan for women to attend soccer games. He has generated controversy in New York in recent days by asking to visit ground zero — a request that was denied — and his scheduled appearance at Columbia University has drawn protests.

But it is because of his provocative remarks, like denying the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, that the United States and Europe have never known quite how to handle him. In demonizing Mr. Ahmadinejad, the West has served him well, elevating his status at home and in the region at a time when he is increasingly isolated politically because of his go-it-alone style and ineffective economic policies, according to Iranian politicians, officials and political experts.

Political analysts here say they are surprised at the degree to which the West focuses on their president, saying that it reflects a general misunderstanding of their system.

Unlike in the United States, in Iran the president is not the head of state nor the commander in chief. That status is held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, whose role combines civil and religious authority. At the moment, this president’s power comes from two sources, they say: the unqualified support of the supreme leader, and the international condemnation he manages to generate when he speaks up.

“The United States pays too much attention to Ahmadinejad,” said an Iranian political scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “He is not that consequential.”

That is not to say that Mr. Ahmadinejad is insignificant. He controls the mechanics of civil government, much the way a prime minister does in a state like Egypt, where the real power rests with the president. He manages the budget and has put like-minded people in positions around the country, from provincial governors to prosecutors. His base of support is the Basiji militia and elements of the Revolutionary Guards.

But Mr. Ahmadinejad has not shown the same political acumen at home as he has in riling the West. Two of his ministers have quit, criticizing his stewardship of the state. The head of the central bank resigned. The chief judge criticized him for his management of the government. His promise to root out corruption and redistribute oil wealth has run up against entrenched interests.

Even a small bloc of members of Parliament that once aligned with Mr. Ahmadinejad has largely given up, officials said. “Maybe it comes as a surprise to you that I voted for him,” said Emad Afrough, a conservative member of Parliament. “I liked the slogans demanding justice.”

But he added: “You cannot govern the country on a personal basis. You have to use public knowledge and consultation.”

Rather than focusing so much attention on the president, the West needs to learn that in Iran, what matters is ideology — Islamic revolutionary ideology, according to politicians and political analysts here. Nearly 30 years after the shah fell in a popular revolt, Iran’s supreme leader also holds title of guardian of the revolution.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s power stems not from his office per se, but from the refusal of his patron, Ayatollah Khamenei, and some hard-line leaders, to move beyond Iran’s revolutionary identity, which makes full relations with the West impossible. There are plenty of conservatives and hard-liners who take a more pragmatic view, wanting to retain “revolutionary values” while integrating Iran with the world, at least economically. But they are not driving the agenda these days, and while that could change, it will not be the president who makes that call.

“Iran has never been interested in reaching an accommodation with the United States,” the Iranian political scientist said. “It cannot reach an accommodation as long as it retains the current structure.”

Another important factor restricts Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hand: while ideology defines the state, the revolution has allowed a particular class to grow wealthy and powerful.

When Mr. Ahmadinejad was first elected, it appeared that Iran’s hard-liners had a monopoly on all the levers of power. But today it is clear that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not a hard-liner in the traditional sense. His talk of economic justice and a redistribution of wealth, for example, ran into a wall of existing vested interests, including powerful clergy members and military leaders.

“Ahmadinejad is a phenomenon,” said Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president under the more moderate administration of Mohammad Khatami. “On a religious level he is much more of a hard-liner than the traditional hard-liners. But on a political level, he does not have the support of the hard-liners.”

In the long run, political analysts here say, a desire to preserve those vested interests will drive Iran’s agenda. That means that the allegiance of the political elite is to the system, not a particular president. If this president were ever perceived as outlasting his usefulness, he would probably take his place in history beside other presidents who failed to change the orientation of the system.

Iranians will go to the polls in less than two years to select a president. There are so many pressures on the electoral system here, few people expect an honest race. The Guardian Council, for example, controlled by hard-liners, must approve all candidates.

But whether Mr. Ahmadinejad wins or loses, there is no sense here in Iran that the outcome will have any impact on the fundamentals of Iran’s relations with the world or the government’s relation to its own society.

“The situation will get worse and worse,” said Saeed Leylaz, an economist and former government official. “We are moving to a point where no internal force can change things.”

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 24, 2007, 07:00:31 PM

Just How Far Did They Go, Those Words Against Israel?

Published: June 11, 2006

EVER since he spoke at an anti-Zionism conference in Tehran last October, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has been known for one statement above all. As translated by news agencies at the time, it was that Israel "should be wiped off the map." Iran's nuclear program and sponsorship of militant Muslim groups are rarely mentioned without reference to the infamous map remark.

Here, for example, is R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, recently: "Given the radical nature of Iran under Ahmadinejad and its stated wish to wipe Israel off the map of the world, it is entirely unconvincing that we could or should live with a nuclear Iran."

But is that what Mr. Ahmadinejad said? And if so, was it a threat of war? For months, a debate among Iran specialists over both questions has been intensifying. It starts as a dispute over translating Persian but quickly turns on whether the United States (with help from Israel) is doing to Iran what some believe it did to Iraq — building a case for military action predicated on a faulty premise.

"Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian," remarked Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan and critic of American policy who has argued that the Iranian president was misquoted. "He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse." Since Iran has not "attacked another country aggressively for over a century," he said in an e-mail exchange, "I smell the whiff of war propaganda."

Jonathan Steele, a columnist for the left-leaning Guardian newspaper in London, recently laid out the case this way: "The Iranian president was quoting an ancient statement by Iran's first Islamist leader, the late Ayatollah Khomeini, that 'this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,' just as the Shah's regime in Iran had vanished. He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The 'page of time' phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon."

Mr. Steele added that neither Khomeini nor Mr. Ahmadinejad suggested that Israel's "vanishing" was imminent or that Iran would be involved in bringing it about. "But the propaganda damage was done," he wrote, "and Western hawks bracket the Iranian president with Hitler as though he wants to exterminate Jews."

If Mr. Steele and Mr. Cole are right, not one word of the quotation — Israel should be wiped off the map — is accurate.

But translators in Tehran who work for the president's office and the foreign ministry disagree with them. All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement, including a description of it on his Web site (, refer to wiping Israel away. Sohrab Mahdavi, one of Iran's most prominent translators, and Siamak Namazi, managing director of a Tehran consulting firm, who is bilingual, both say "wipe off" or "wipe away" is more accurate than "vanish" because the Persian verb is active and transitive.

The second translation issue concerns the word "map." Khomeini's words were abstract: "Sahneh roozgar." Sahneh means scene or stage, and roozgar means time. The phrase was widely interpreted as "map," and for years, no one objected. In October, when Mr. Ahmadinejad quoted Khomeini, he actually misquoted him, saying not "Sahneh roozgar" but "Safheh roozgar," meaning pages of time or history. No one noticed the change, and news agencies used the word "map" again.

Ahmad Zeidabadi, a professor of political science in Tehran whose specialty is Iran-Israel relations, explained: "It seems that in the early days of the revolution the word 'map' was used because it appeared to be the best meaningful translation for what he said. The words 'sahneh roozgar' are metaphorical and do not refer to anything specific. Maybe it was interpreted as 'book of countries,' and the closest thing to that was a map. Since then, we have often heard 'Israel bayad az naghshe jographya mahv gardad' — Israel must be wiped off the geographical map. Hard-liners have used it in their speeches."

The final translation issue is Mr. Ahmadinejad's use of "occupying regime of Jerusalem" rather than "Israel."

To some analysts, this means he is calling for regime change, not war, and therefore it need not be regarded as a call for military action. Professor Cole, for example, says: "I am entirely aware that Ahmadinejad is hostile to Israel. The question is whether his intentions and capabilities would lead to a military attack, and whether therefore pre-emptive warfare is prescribed. I am saying no, and the boring philology is part of the reason for the no."

But to others, "occupying regime" signals more than opposition to a certain government; the phrase indicates the depth of the Iranian president's rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East because he refuses even to utter the name Israel. He has said that the Palestinian issue "does not lend itself to a partial territorial solution" and has called Israel "a stain" on Islam that must be erased. By contrast, Mr. Ahmadinejad's predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, said that if the Palestinians accepted Israel's existence, Iran would go along.

When combined with Iran's longstanding support for Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah of Lebanon, two groups that have killed numerous Israelis, and Mr. Ahmadinejad's refusal to acknowledge the Holocaust, it is hard to argue that, from Israel's point of view, Mr. Ahmadinejad poses no threat. Still, it is true that he has never specifically threatened war against Israel.

So did Iran's president call for Israel to be wiped off the map? It certainly seems so. Did that amount to a call for war? That remains an open question.

Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran for this article.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 24, 2007, 07:01:57 PM
And here's some more on the same subject:

Special Dispatch Series - No. 1357
November 15, 2006 No.1357

Qods (Jerusalem) Day in Iran: ‘The Nation of Muslims Must Prepare for the Great War So As to Completely Wipe Out the Zionist Regime and to Remove This Cancerous Growth’

On the occasion of Qods (Jerusalem) Day, which was observed this year in Iran on October 20, 2006, several conservative Iranian newspapers published editorials praising the resistance against Israel and urging Israel's destruction. [1]

The editorials, which appeared in the conservative dailies Resalat and Kayhan, reflected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Qods Day speech, in which he said: "The existence of this regime [i.e. Israel] has been based on military threat, on military strength, and on its myth of invincibility. Today, by the grace of God, this myth has been shattered, with the help of the believers in Palestine, and thanks to the self-sacrifice and the belief of the Hizbullah commanders. Today, the Zionists do not feel safe, not even in their homes, [or] anywhere in the world."


The articles in Resalat and Kayhan said thatthe recent Lebanon war was only the first battle on the way to the elimination of Israel, and expressed the hope that the war will serve as a catalyst for an extensive Islamic uprising against Israel.

The following are excerpts from the two articles:

Kayhan: "Hizbullah Destroyed at Least Half of Israel in The Lebanon War... Now Only Half the Path [To Its Destruction] Remains"
On October 19, 2006, the conservative daily Kayhan, which is close to Iran's Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei, published an article on the occasion of Qods (Jerusalem) Day: [2] "...This year was a decisive one for Palestine and the Islamic Middle East region. Those opposed to the liberation of Jerusalem, Palestine, and the Middle East linked arms and sought to publicly topple the free foundations of sacred Jerusalem. America, Europe, Russia, many of the heads of Arab regimes in the region, and the Zionists all collaborated in this process, assuming that by means of a series of operations they would dry up the heart of the freedom of Jerusalem, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and that by means of a terrible blow against these four countries they would close this dossier forever.

"On this basis [U.S. Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice came to the Middle East in the first days of the Lebanon war and said: 'The new Middle East is like a newborn, and therefore we must suffer its birth pangs.' Then she clearly declared [the need] to eradicate the Lebanese Hizbullah. [But] the axis of the West, the East, and the Zionists against Hizbullah ended in its defeat and in a reversal in the balance [of power].

"Hizbullah stood fast in Israel's 33-day war against Lebanon, and proved that the destruction of Israel was easier [work] than some of the Arab governments think - [namely,] that the destruction of Israel is impossible. The 33-day war proved that the intelligence-security capability of Israel is not so great as to be immeasurable and that it is possible to triumph over the Israeli Air Force - which had been considered the element that brought about the victory of the Israeli regime over the Arabs in the five previous wars - and this is said without disregarding its range of technological capabilities.

"When the air force of the Zionist Regime, together with its warships, besieged the shores of Lebanon - from the port of Tripoli in the north to the port of Tyre in the south - it retreated after Hizbullah's blow to the advanced Saar 5 warship at a distance of 12 miles from the coast of Beirut... thus it was proven that, by means of an offensive operation that need not be equal to Israel's moves, it is possible to neutralize the Zionist navy.

"With the downing of one of the Tel Aviv regime's advanced night-flight helicopters at the height of the war... it became clear to all that the Zionist regime's air force, despite 33 successive days of bombing, had not managed to deliver serious harm to the capability of Hizbullah's command and missiles. It was proven that it is possible to damage the Israeli Air Force from a distance...

"The 33-day war ended without any of the goals that had been declared by the Zionist government and the commanders of its military being attained - and this was the first time that Israel was forced to accept its complete downfall...

"In the 33-day war, the Lebanese Hizbullah destroyed at least 50% of Israel [and therefore] half the path to the liberation of Jerusalem equals 33 days. Now, only (at most) 50% of the path [to Israel's destruction] remains. This remaining 50% is easier than the 50% that was already accomplished. Now, in the face of the degree of fear and lack of confidence that has been deeply implanted in [all] parts of the Zionist regime, the Muslim peoples of the region, and particularly the four Arab countries neighboring Palestine [i.e. Israel] - Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon - are full of hope and confidence, and they have no doubt, that they will be able to very quickly overcome the Zionist regime...

"According to this description, just as in one 33-day war more than 50% of Israel was destroyed, and the hope of its supporters for the continued life of this regime was broken, it is likely that in the next battle, the second half will also collapse.

"On that day... Jordan will not be able to prevent the Jordanian Islamists from operating through the long Jordan-Palestine border, and the millions of Egyptian Islamists... will not let the Sinai-Israel border remain quiet, and the Syrian Golan Heights will not remain as a [mere] observer of the battle. That day is not so far off."
Resalat: "The Great War is Ahead of Us, [And Will Break Out] Perhaps Tomorrow, or in Another Few Days, or in a Few Months, or Even in a Few Years... Israel Must Collapse"
In an October 22, 2006 editorial titled "Preparations for the Great War," the conservative daily Resalat wrote: [3] "...The Qods Day marches in the month of Ramadan this year were held at a time when the takeover by the global arrogance [the U.S.] was shattered with Israel's defeat by the Lebanese Hizbullah.

"For the first time in the 60 years of its disgraceful life, the Zionist regime - the West's beloved in the Middle East - tasted the taste of defeat, and the citizens of this regime trembled at the menace of Hizbullah's missiles. There can be no doubt at all that the silence of the parents of this illegal creature [i.e. Israel] is temporary, and that they [i.e. the West] will not be willing to sit quietly before their wounded child and [just] worry at its misfortune.

"The Zionist regime and its supporters are, without doubt, preparing for the great war, in order to settle this conflict in one fell swoop. They will not be willing to relinquish the occupied lands of Ghajar and the Shab'a Farms - this in order to keep Lebanon's wound open. This regime's military movements in the north of occupied Palestine, the unconditional military and economic aid it receives from America, and [Israel's] effort to imitate Europe in the military arena [in] missile and satellite [technology] - all attest to this regime's preparedness for renewed war against Hizbullah.

"This sense of danger on the part of the supporters of the counterfeit Israeli regime is not limited to the Islamic resistance in Lebanon [i.e. Hizbullah]. On the contrary; the American plan of [U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice, which is titled 'Conditions for Neutralizing the Aspiration for Growth in the Islamic World and Coordination with the Arab Governments in the Region in Order to Contain the Shi'ites,' attests to the West's preparations for a wide confrontation with the Middle East's [Islamic] awakening movement in the third millennium. This is, of course, the first time in [the history of] America-Zionist relations that Washington has turned to the heads [of the Arab states] after an Israeli defeat, and asked them to unite and help it [i.e. Israel], in order to compensate for the losses in the war...

"In any event, we must be alert. Sights and rumors can tell us about the movements of this regime [i.e. Israel] in the coming months. Hizbullah was the undisputed victor of the 33-day war against Israel, but as the honorable Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] said at Friday prayers in Tehran: 'The defeated in this event are not, and will not remain, passive. The process is not over [yet]. They are busy with operations and efforts aimed at stopping the results of this disappointment and defeat [they suffered], because the blow that landed upon them was a hard one...'

"The Muslim peoples in the region must stop this conspiracy before it happens. The people's unprecedented participation in Qods [Jerusalem] Day this year attests to the continuation of the path of resistance against the Zionist regime... But on the first front of the resistance, that is, the Hizbullah [front], maintaining control over the 'Iron Triangle' [4] region and declaring it a closed military area can prevent the weakening of the forces of the Islamic resistance. In any event, America's effort is to turn UNIFIL's role into one of confrontation with and weakening of Hizbullah - but doubtless this deception will be neutralized by the alertness of [Hizbullah Secretary-General] Hassan Nasrallah.

"It must not be forgotten that the great war is ahead of us, [and it will break out] perhaps tomorrow, or in another few days, or in a few months, or even in a few years. The nation of Muslims must prepare for the great war, so as to completely wipe out the Zionist regime, and remove this cancerous growth. Like the Imam [Ayatollah] Khomeini said: 'Israel must collapse."


[1] Qods (Jerusalem) Day is observed yearly in Iran on the last Friday of Ramadan, in accordance with the orders of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It marks Iran's aspiration for the liberation of all Palestine.

[2] Kayhan (Iran), October 19, 2006.

[3] Resalat (Iran), October 22, 2006.

[4] The Iron Triangle is a term for the area around the city of Tyre in Lebanon that Hizbullah used as its main launching pad for Katyushas aimed at Israel during the July-August 2006 Lebanon war.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 27, 2007, 06:55:16 AM
Caveat lector:  NY Times

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — A year and a half after President Bush told top aides that he feared he might be forced someday to choose between acquiescing to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and ordering military action, the struggle to find an effective alternative — sanctions with real bite — is entering a new phase.

The speech at the United Nations on Tuesday by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is already being used by American officials in an effort to convince European allies that Iran’s leadership will respond only to a sharp new wave of economic pressure, far greater than anything it has endured so far. Mr. Ahmadinejad, trying to make the case that no additional sanctions would derail Iran’s uranium enrichment program, declared that “the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed.”

Until now, Washington has relied on gradually escalating sanctions, including convincing a growing number of banks that it is risky to lend new funds to Iran for major oil projects. Yet in interviews, American diplomats, White House officials and military officers acknowledge that the strategy has been largely ineffective.

So have veiled threats of military action. While President Bush and his aides insist that “all options are on the table,” senior officials say there is little enthusiasm in the White House or the Pentagon for military attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities, though they acknowledge that such war plans are always being refined.

The officials say the Iranians fully understand that while the United States could destroy Iran’s major nuclear facilities, it would be far harder to manage the probable response, which could include heightened attacks on American forces in Iraq, possible retaliation on Israel or the destabilization of governments from Lebanon to Pakistan.

Administration officials say that the chances appear slim that the United States can enlist Russia and China behind really tough sanctions against Iran, and that it could take several months for such sanctions to emerge, if they do at all.

But for the first time, administration officials say, the European allies are talking about a far broader cutoff of bank lending and technology to Iran than any tried so far. The lead is being taken by the new government in France, whose president, Nicolas Sarkozy, issued a starker warning to the United Nations this week about a nuclear Iran than did Mr. Bush.

That has created a new initiative between Washington and Paris unlike any since they split over the invasion of Iraq. The effort, said Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, is intended to convince Iranians that the nuclear program is “taking us into the ditch,” and to make the pressure so great “that they finally have to make a strategic choice.”

In a meeting on Tuesday with editors and reporters for The New York Times, Mr. Hadley conceded that the United States was still struggling to understand how much pressure it would take to force Iran to make what he called a “strategic choice” and said that intelligence estimates “vary widely” about how much time remained before the Iranians could have a weapon.

One senior European official who is taking part in conversations in New York this week to design sanctions that the entire European Union might agree to said it was now “a race between how fast they can build centrifuges and we can turn up the pain.”

So the discussions now center on cutting off even more lending to the Iranians and — for the first time — supplies of technology and other goods. But that would require severing, one by one, deep ties between European and Iranian businesses, and necessitate what Mr. Hadley called a consensus for “aggressive action, even if that means compromising their commercial interests.”

A range of officials acknowledged the difficulty of designing a military strike option effective enough to set the Iranian program back for many years.

While many of the sites have long been known — especially the giant underground complex at Natanz, where just shy of 2,000 centrifuges have been installed — there is no certainty that military action could destroy the entire system of well-disguised factories and laboratories, some known and some hidden.

And the turmoil certain to follow such an attack may not be worth military action that simply delays nuclear development, officials say.

That probably explains why Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have both vowed to pursue the diplomatic track, saying that military action is a last resort. But those comments have not silenced the speculation here, in Europe and in the Middle East that America is planning for an attack.

“This constant drumbeat of war is not helpful, and it’s not useful,” said Adm. William J. Fallon, the senior American commander in the region.
Page 2 of 2)

In a telephone interview this week as he visited various regional capitals, Admiral Fallon pledged that the United States would “maintain our capabilities in that region of the world in an attempt to make sure that if they opt for military activity there, that is not going to be very useful to them.”

At the same time, he said, “we will pursue avenues that might result in some kind of improvement in Iranian behavior.”

“I am not talking about a war strategy, but a strategy to demonstrate our resolve,” Admiral Fallon said. “We have a very, very robust capability in the region, especially in comparison to Iran. That is one of the things that people might want to keep in mind. Our intention is to make sure they understand that, but we are being prudent in our actions and certainly not trying to be provocative.”

In recent days others have begun to speak openly about what the United States would face if Iran successfully fielded nuclear weapons or manufactured enough uranium to make clear that it could produce weapons in short order. It is that second possibility — in which Iran would stay within the strict rules of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty — that worries many intelligence officials.

Gen. John P. Abizaid, who retired this year as senior American commander in the Middle East, said that while the United States must do all it can to prevent Iran from going nuclear, the world could live with a nuclear Iran and could contain it.

“I believe that the United States, with our great military power, can contain Iran, that the United States can deliver clear messages to the Iranians that makes it clear to them that while they may develop one or two nuclear weapons, they’ll never be able to compete with us in our true military might and power, and they should not underestimate either our resolve or our ability to deal with them in the event of war,” General Abizaid said in a speech last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy institute

He said the broad rules of deterrence that kept a nuclear peace between the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war, and remain in effect with nuclear Russia and China today, would be effective against a nuclear Iran.

“I believe nuclear deterrence will work with the Iranians,” General Abizaid said.

Inside the administration, senior officials say they have also considered organizing a regional forum to confront Iran, using as a model the “six party” talks with North Korea, an effort to put pressure on that country from all its neighbors. But in the Middle East, officials say, the idea has hardly gotten off the ground.

“As we talk to the regional leaders, we have yet to hear a single good idea for ways to find common ground, or a forum or framework for dealing with Iran,” said one senior official involved in Iran policy. The problem, officials say, is that none of Iran’s neighbors are willing and able to play the decisive role alongside the United States.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 27, 2007, 01:10:18 PM
Second post of the day:


Bush and Iran
Tehran has been told it will pay a price for killing Americans, but it never has.

Thursday, September 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The traveling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad circus made for great political theater this week, but the comedy shouldn't detract from its brazen underlying message: The Iranian President believes that the world lacks the will to stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear program, and that the U.S. also can't stop his country from killing GIs in Iraq. The question is what President Bush intends to do about this in his remaining 16 months in office.

Over the last five years, Mr. Bush has issued multiple and sundry warnings to Iran. In early 2002, he cautioned Iran that "if they in any way, shape or form try to destabilize the [Afghan] government, the coalition will deal with them, in diplomatic ways initially." In mid-2003, following revelations about the extent of Iran's secret nuclear programs, he insisted the U.S. "will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon."

In January of this year, as evidence mounted that Iran was supplying sophisticated, armor-penetrating munitions to Shiite militias in Iraq, Mr. Bush was tougher still: "We will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq."

In February, he added that "I can speak with certainty that the Qods Force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops." And as recently as this month's TV speech on Iraq, the President alerted Americans to the "destructive ambitions of Iran" and warned the mullahs that their efforts to "undermine [Iraq's] government must stop."

We belabor this rhetorical record because it so clearly contrasts with how little the Administration has done about it. As with Syria, the Bush Administration has repeatedly told Iran that it would have to pay a price for its hostile behavior while in the end demanding no such price. This undermines U.S. diplomacy, but in the case of GIs in Iraq it is worse: It means the Commander in Chief is letting an enemy kill Americans with impunity. And the Iranians have got the message: Mr. Ahmadinejad felt confident enough to declare this week at the U.N. that the issue of its nuclear program was "closed."
From 2003 to 2005, Mr. Bush outsourced his Iran policy to France, Germany and Britain, which wooed Tehran with trade concessions, security guarantees and promises of technical assistance. Iran rejected those offers, as it did a Russian proposal to enrich uranium on its own soil--but not without drawing out talks as long as possible.

The Administration finally succeeded in having Iran's Non-Proliferation Treaty violations referred to the U.N. Security Council in 2006, though by then Iran had mastered the technology of enriching uranium in a "cascade" of centrifuges. Many nuclear analysts consider this the point of no return toward a bomb. Intelligence reports also suggested that Iran had designs for casting uranium into hemispherical shapes--essential for making a bomb--and for marrying a nuclear warhead to a ballistic missile.

So far there have been two "binding" U.N. resolutions on Iran's nuclear project, both notable mainly for their weakness. When Resolution 1747 passed this March, U.S. officials said the Security Council would move quickly to the next round. Instead, it has done nothing, even as Iran has moved to install industrial-scale (3,000-plus centrifuge) enrichment facilities.

The U.S. has also exerted some financial pressure on Iran, in part by pressing European companies to scale back their investments. This is useful, but only on the margins. The U.S. is now talking with France and others on developing sanctions outside the U.N., to avoid a Russian or Chinese veto. But these sanctions will apparently not include an embargo on Iran's imports of refined gasoline, which account for 40% of its domestic consumption.

The failure to act is similar regarding Iran's support for terror in Iraq. As early as August 2003, Paul Bremer noted Iran's "irresponsible conduct" in Iraq's affairs. In 2005, even Time magazine was reporting "Inside Iran's Secret War for Iraq." It was not until last summer that the U.S. began taking any kind of action against Iranian operatives in Iraq, most of them working under diplomatic cover.

This month U.S. forces arrested Mahmudi Farhadi, whose job description, according to the Iranian government, is head of "cross-border commercial transactions" for the western Iranian province of Kermanshah. Translation: Mr. Farhadi smuggles IEDs into Iraq. Wire reports say Mr. Farhadi's arrest is only the third such action against Iranian nationals this year.

According to information from an Iranian opposition group with a record of being right, Iran's Qods (Jerusalem) Force operates under the aegis of the Al-Najaf Al-Ashraf Al-Saqafieh Establishment, based in Najaf and run by Iranian mullah Hamid Hosseini. Arms deliveries are organized by a group called the "Headquarters for Reconstruction of Iraq's Holy Sites." Iran orchestrates these efforts from the Fajr Base, in the Iranian city of Ahwaz.

Administration officials tell us that Iranian-backed militias using Iranian-supplied arms now account for 70% of U.S. casualties in Iraq. U.S. forces also recently intercepted a shipment of shaped explosive devices that Iran was smuggling to insurgents in Afghanistan. This is at least the third time such shipments have been seized by coalition forces. Dan McNeill, NATO's senior commander in Kabul, notes that "it would be hard for me to imagine that they come into Afghanistan without the knowledge of at least the military in Iran."

The Administration seemed prepared last month to name the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (which runs the Qods Force) as a terrorist organization, a designation that would be amply justified. But once again, the State Department is equivocating amid Russian, Chinese and European opposition.

Meanwhile, on the nuclear issue, Mr. Ahmadinejad declared this week that he'll no longer cooperate with the U.N. Security Council, but only with Mohamed ElBaradei, the accommodating Egyptian who runs the U.N. nuclear agency. Our readers will recall that former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton warned Mr. Bush about Mr. ElBaradei and tried to block his wish for a third term. But Mr. Bush sided with State Department officials who supported Mr. ElBaradei, and now the U.S. has to live with his pro-Iranian machinations.

The Bush Presidency is running out of time to act if it wants to stop Iran from gaining a bomb. With GIs fighting and dying in Iraq, Mr. Bush also owes it to them not to allow enemy sanctuaries or weapons pipelines from Iran. If the President believes half of what he and his Administration have said about Iran's behavior, he has an obligation to do whatever it takes to stop it.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 06, 2007, 07:29:16 AM
Persian Gulf
Insights into Iran can be gleaned from these masterly works.

Saturday, October 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

1. "The Strangling of Persia" by W. Morgan Shuster (Century, 1912).

Iranians tend to believe that their destinies are shaped by powerful forces beyond their reach--and it's not just a collective fantasy. In the early 20th century, control over Persia was brutally exercised by Russia and Britain. Desperate Persian rulers of the time turned to the U.S. to find an expert who could sort out the kingdom's ransacked treasury. The man they chose, W. Morgan Shuster, fell in love with Iran and worked feverishly to introduce virtuous financial practices. He never had a chance; the Russians and Brits sent him packing. "The Strangling of Persia" is a remarkable account of life in a failed, corrupt state and a tale of heartbreak for an American who foolishly believes that he can prevail by force of will and hard work. Lessons for strategists abound.

2. "Know Thine Enemy" by Edward Shirley (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997).

When Reuel Marc Gerecht worked for the CIA as a Middle Eastern specialist (1985-94), the agency would not allow him to venture into Iran. But when he left the CIA to become a scholar (he is a colleague of mine at the American Enterprise Institute), he decided to sneak into the country by hiring a driver and hiding in a padded box on the floor of a truck. In "Know Thine Enemy," written under the pen name Edward Shirley, Mr. Gerecht describes the trip and what he found. "An Iranian can scream 'Death to America!' one moment and ask you sincerely a minute later to help his sister get a visa to the States, a land they both adore," he writes. "Those feelings are not contradictory; they are sequential. Commitments come and go, then return." Given Iranians' similar love-hate feelings about the mullahs who rule them and the West's decadence, he asks: "How do you know when Iranians aren't lying to themselves?" Mr. Gerecht doesn't know. How could he? They themselves don't.

3. "The Adventures of Haji Baba of Ispahan" by James Morier (1824).

James Morier, a British diplomat in Persia in the early 19th century, published "The Adventures of Haji Baba of Ispahan" to great success in 1824. Morier's tale, about a barber's son who seeks his fortune, is a delightful series of encounters that cut to the heart of Iranian society. We see the Chief Executioner explaining to Haji: "Do not suppose that the salary which the Shah gives his servants is a matter of much consideration with them: no, the value of their places depends upon the range of extortion which circumstances may afford, and upon their ingenuity in taking advantage of it." The culture of corruption is little changed in contemporary Iran. And the religious fanaticism that Morier tweaked also echoes down the years: A character named Nadan who wants to become Tehran's religious leader, Morier writes, has no peer "either as a zealous practiser of the ordinances of his religion, or a persecutor of those who might be its enemies."

4. "The Persian Puzzle" by Kenneth M. Pollack (Random House, 2004).

Kenneth M. Pollack spent years at the CIA, then migrated to the National Security Council during Bill Clinton's presidency. Like every other government official who has tried to normalize relations between Iran and the U.S., he came to grief. And like most such failed dreamers, he continued to believe that there must be a way. His odyssey is the best account we have of recent Iranian history and U.S.-Iranian relations. "The Persian Puzzle" is remarkably candid about the illusions and failures of the men and women for whom Mr. Pollack worked--people he often admired.

5. "Prisoner of Tehran" by Marina Nemat (Free Press, 2007).

Marina Nemat was arrested at age 16 in 1982 and held in Tehran's infamous Evin Prison for more than two years, accused of antiregime activity. She was not an activist but a friend of leftists and a Christian. In prison, she was interrogated and tortured, then sentenced to death. But a guard named Ali had fallen in love with her and saved her from execution. She remained in prison, though, and Ali became her husband--as well as a new source of menace when he forced her to convert to Islam by threatening her family. In "Prisoner of Tehran," her gripping, elegantly written memoir, Ms. Nemat, who now lives in Canada, reminds us that it is through the details of daily life that the evils of a regime such as the Islamic Republic are best understood.

Mr. Ledeen is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His latest book, "The Iranian Time Bomb" (St. Martin's), has just been published.

Title: Iran's foreign policy debate
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 25, 2007, 06:39:27 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Intense Foreign Policy Debate

Iran is at a stage where friction in its policymaking is to be expected. Iran survives by having a very conservative foreign policy, but conservative does not mean quiet. During the past century all of Iran's meaningful regional rivals -- the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, the Soviet Union, the Taliban and Iraq -- have collapsed. For the first time in centuries, Tehran has the opportunity to venture out of its redoubt in the Zagros Mountains and establish a buffer in Mesopotamia. Deciding the pace, tone and force to use in that task is the stuff of high policy, and Iran is understandably of many minds over which specific path to follow.

These debates are now coming to a boil within Iran. The confusion surrounding the surprise resignation of Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, followed by false rumors of a resignation by Iran's foreign minister are all manifestations of an intense policy debate brewing in Tehran over the course Iran should take in pursuing its Iraq policy. The Iranians can either move toward a comprehensive agreement with the United States over Iraq that would come with security guarantees and involve a capitulation of sorts on its nuclear program; or it could choose to align with the Russians for some short-term, albeit shaky, security guarantees against a U.S. attack while it stays the course and tries to make things difficult enough in Iraq that the United States will change its mind and withdraw. In any case, the Iranians have clearly not made up their mind, and this debate is getting more intense by the day.

And the debate is not taking place in a vacuum. On Oct. 23 in Prague, Czech Republic, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates informed the Russians that the United States -- in order to reach an accommodation with the Russians over National Missile Defense (NMD) policy -- would not "activate" its planned Polish/Czech system until Iran's ballistic missile program was more clearly a threat. Russia feels that the system is the first step toward the United States nullifying the Russian nuclear deterrent. The United States insists it is about preparing for the day that Iran's missile program is ready for intercontinental prime time.

While subtle, Gates' offer is nonetheless a policy shift. Washington has moved from "we have to complete NMD because Iran is an immediate threat" to "we have to complete NMD, but we do not need to switch it on until Iran is close to having ICBMs." All Gates has really done is note that there is a little wiggle room in the construction schedule -- a move so subtle that Stratfor would brush off a single mention of it as unimportant. But Gates has persisted in offering and reoffering the deal, most recently in front of the Czechs. Place that repetition in the context of relations among the United States, Russia and Iran and it becomes of critical importance -- and the friction in Iran's inner circle is brought into sharp focus.

Russia is offering itself to Iran as a sort of informal security guarantor in order to gain influence with the Americans. The Iranians are seeking out Russian backing in order to gain influence with the Americans. Now the Americans are in essence telling the Russians that if they can keep Iran from developing intercontinental missiles, then the United States does not necessarily need to complete the NMD system that so concerns the Kremlin.

The Russian response came from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who -- in the middle of an agonizingly long speech -- noted that Russia wanted "the joint work of Russian and American specialists to be more efficient." For those of you not fluent in Russian bureaucratese, that translates to, "Interesting. Let's talk details."

So we have the Russians and Americans groping toward some sort of talks on the NMD issue, something that by definition would involve the two powers actively putting limitations on Iranian weapons development. And we have a fierce debate in Tehran -- likely over how far it can trust the Russians, who are perfectly willing to sell Iran out if it means brokering a deal with the United States. To complete the picture all that is needed is a sudden change in the American-Iranian impasse over Iraq.

And that happened in an interview Gen. David Petraeus gave the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Baghdad bureau. Since testifying to the U.S. Congress in September, Petraeus has more or less spouted on about how evil the Iranians are for their anti-American efforts in Iraq. In the interview published on Wednesday he flatly called for a new round of talks with Iran on the topic of Iraqi security questions.

So the Russians and Iranians are baiting each other while the Americans are sounding out the Russians, and now the Iranians are entertaining an American offer to negotiate on Iraq. Where all this will develop is of course entirely up in the air. An American-Russian deal would isolate Iran just as easily as an American-Iranian deal would cut out Russia or a serious Russian-Iranian deal would hamstring Washington. But for the first time in several weeks there is a hint that Russia and Iran are not actually in lockstep and that there is room to maneuver on the American side. This could still all go straight to hell, but Washington is still in the game.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 25, 2007, 08:36:46 AM
Some details exemplifying the preceding:

IRAN: Iran has commissioned Imad Mughniyye, Hezbollah official for foreign operations, to organize cells of Shiite operatives in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to operate against U.S. and pro-U.S. Arabs in the event of war against Iran, a Stratfor source in Lebanon said. Trainees from the Persian Gulf region reportedly have arrived in Lebanon and are conducting drills in the Bekaa Valley.

CZECH REPUBLIC, RUSSIA: The Czech Republic could allow Russia to inspect a site where the United States plans to construct a radar as part of a proposed missile shield in Europe, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said. Russian experts would not be allowed to maintain a permanent presence either during the radar's construction or after the base becomes operational, but they could be given specific dates for inspections, Topolanek said in an interview with Czech television.

U.S., IRAN: New U.S. sanctions aimed at punishing Iran for missile sales, nuclear activities and support of "terrorist organizations" will cut off Iranian entities from the U.S. financial system, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. The sanctions target the Quds Force, Bank Melli and two other state-owned banks, and companies controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. U.S. companies are prohibited from doing business with the designated groups, and any assets the groups have in the United States will be frozen.

CHINA: China denied reports that it had agreed to sell two squadrons of J-10 fighter planes to Iran. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called the reports "irresponsible" and said no talks had taken place. Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported the deal Oct. 24.

Title: The French straddle the fence
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 29, 2007, 12:06:46 PM

FRANCE, IRAN: French Defense Minister Herve Morin dismissed earlier comments by International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, who said there is no evidence Iran is building nuclear weapons. Morin said France has conflicting evidence that matches information gathered by other countries. However, he added, "The prospect of a war is a prospect which does not exist for France."


Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 30, 2007, 02:08:10 PM
War Plans: United States and Iran
By George Friedman

A possible U.S. attack against Iran has been a hot topic in the news for many months now. In some quarters it has become an article of faith that the Bush administration intends to order such an attack before it leaves office. It remains a mystery whether the administration plans an actual attack or whether it is using the threat of attack to try to intimidate Iran -- and thus shape its behavior in Iraq and elsewhere. Unraveling the mystery lies, at least in part, in examining what a U.S. attack would look like, given U.S. goals and resources, as well as in considering the potential Iranian response. Before turning to intentions, it is important to discuss the desired outcomes and capabilities. Unfortunately, those discussions have taken a backseat to speculations about the sheer probability of war.

Let's begin with goals. What would the United States hope to achieve by attacking Iran? On the broadest strategic level, the answer is actually quite simple. After 9/11, the United States launched counterstrikes in the Islamic world. The goal was to disrupt the al Qaeda core in order to prevent further attacks against the United States. The counterstrikes also were aimed at preventing the emergence of a follow-on threat from the Islamic world that would replace the threat that had been posed by al Qaeda. The disruption of all Islamic centers of power that have the ability and intent to launch terrorist attacks against the United States is a general goal of U.S. strategy. With the decline of Sunni radicalism, Iran has emerged as an alternative Shiite threat. Hence, under this logic, Iran must be dealt with.

Obviously, the greater the disruption of radically anti-American elements in the Islamic world, the better it is for the United States. But there are three problems here. First, the United States has a far more complex relationship with Iran than it does with al Qaeda. Iran supported the U.S. attack against the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- for its own reasons, of course. Second, the grand strategy of the United States might include annihilating Islamic radicalism, but at the end of the day, maintaining the balance of power between Sunnis and Shia and between Arab and non-Arab Muslims is a far more practical approach. Finally, the question of what to do about Iran depends on the military capabilities of the United States in the immediate future. The intentions are shaped by the capabilities.

What, therefore, would the U.S. goals be in an attack against Iran? They divide into three (not mutually exclusive) strategies:

1. Eliminating Iran's nuclear program.
2. Crippling Iran by hitting its internal infrastructure -- political, industrial and military -- ideally forcing regime change that would favor U.S. interests.
3. Using an attack -- or threatening an attack -- to change Iranian behavior in Iraq, Lebanon or other areas of the world.

It is important to note the option that is not on the table: invasion by U.S. ground forces, beyond the possible use of small numbers of Special Operations forces. Regardless of the state of Iranian conventional forces after a sustained air attack, the United States simply does not have the numbers of ground troops needed to invade and occupy Iran -- particularly given the geography and topography of the country. Therefore, any U.S. attack would rely on the forces available, namely air and naval forces.

The destruction of Iran's nuclear capabilities would be the easiest to achieve, assuming that U.S. intelligence has a clear picture of the infrastructure of that program and that the infrastructure has not been hardened to the point of being invulnerable to conventional attack. Iran, however, learned a great deal from Iraq's Osirak experience and has spread out and hardened its nuclear facilities. Also, given Iran's location and the proximity of U.S. forces and allies, we can assume the United States would not be interested in a massive nuclear attack with the resulting fallout. Moreover, we would argue that, in a world of proliferation, it would not be in the interest of the United States to set a precedent by being the first use to use nuclear weapons since World War II.

Therefore, the U.S. option is to carry out precision strikes against Iran's nuclear program using air- and sea-launched munitions. As a threat, this is in an interesting option. As an actual operation, it is less interesting. First, the available evidence is that Iran is years away from achieving a deliverable nuclear weapon. Second, Iran might be more interested in trading its nuclear program for other political benefits -- specifically in Iraq. An attack against the country's nuclear facilities would make Tehran less motivated than before to change its behavior. Furthermore, even if its facilities were destroyed, Iran would retain its capabilities in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere in the world. Therefore, unless the United States believed there was an imminent threat of the creation of a deliverable nuclear system, the destruction of a long-term program would eliminate the long-term threat, but leave Iran's short-term capabilities intact. Barring imminent deployment, a stand-alone attack against Iran's nuclear capabilities makes little sense.

That leaves the second option -- a much broader air and sea campaign against Iran. This would have four potential components:

1. Attacks against its economic infrastructure, particularly its refineries.
2. Attacks against its military infrastructure.
3. Attacks against its political infrastructure, particularly its leadership.
4. A blockade and sanctions.

Let's begin in reverse order. The United States has the ability to blockade Iran's ports, limiting the importation of oil and refined products, as well as food. It does not have the ability to impose a general land blockade against Iran, which has long land borders, including with Iraq. Because the United States lacks the military capability to seal those borders, goods from around Iran's periphery would continue to flow, including, we emphasize, from Iraq, where U.S. control of transportation systems, particularly in the Shiite south, is limited. In addition, it is unclear whether the United States would be willing to intercept, board and seize ships from third-party countries (Russia, China and a large number of small countries) that are not prepared to participate in sanctions or might not choose to respect an embargo. The United States is stretched thin, and everyone knows it. A blockade could invite deliberate challenges, while enforcement would justify other actions against U.S. interests elsewhere. Any blockade strategy assumes that Iran is internationally isolated, which it is not, that the United States can impose a military blockade on land, which it cannot, and that it can withstand the consequences elsewhere should a third party use U.S. actions to justify counteraction, which is questionable. A blockade could hurt Iran's energy economy, but Iran has been preparing for this for years and can mitigate the effect by extensive smuggling operations. Ultimately, Iran is not likely to crumble unless the United States can maintain and strengthen the blockade process over a matter of many months at the very least.

Another option is a decapitation strike against Iran's leadership -- though it is important to recall how this strategy failed in Iraq at the beginning of the 2003 invasion. Decapitation assumes superb intelligence on the location of the leadership at a given time -- and that level of intelligence is hard to come by. Iraq had a much smaller political elite than Iran has, and the United States couldn't nail down its whereabouts. It also is important to remember that Iran has a much deeper and more diverse leadership structure than Iraq had. Iraq's highly centralized system included few significant leaders. Iran is more decentralized and thus has a much larger and deeper leadership cadre. We doubt the United States has the real-time intelligence capability to carry out such a broad decapitation strike.

The second option is an assault against the Iranian military. Obviously, the United States has the ability to carry out a very effective assault against the military's technical infrastructure -- air defense, command and control, aircraft, armor and so on. But the Iranian military is primarily an infantry force, designed for internal control and operations in mountainous terrain -- the bulk of Iran's borders. Once combat operations began, the force would disperse and tend to become indistinguishable from the general population. A counterpersonnel operation would rapidly become a counterpopulation operation. Under any circumstances, an attack against a dispersed personnel pool numbering in the high hundreds of thousands would be sortie intensive, to say the least. An air campaign designed to impose high attrition on an infantry force, leaving aside civilian casualties, would require an extremely large number of sorties, in which the use of precision-guided munitions would be of minimal value and the use of area weapons would be at a premium. Given the fog of war and intelligence issues, the ability to evaluate the status of this campaign would be questionable.

In our view, the Iranians are prepared to lose their technical infrastructure and devolve command and control to regional and local levels. The collapse of the armed forces -- most of whose senior officers and noncoms fought in the Iran-Iraq war with very flexible command and control -- is unlikely. The force would continue to be able to control the frontiers as well as maintain internal security functions. The United States would rapidly establish command of the air, and destroy noninfantry forces. But even here there is a cautionary note. In Yugoslavia, the United States learned that relatively simple camouflage and deception techniques were quite effective in protecting tactical assets. The Iranians have studied both the Kosovo war and U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have extensive tactical combat experience themselves. A forced collapse from the air of the Iranian infantry capability -- the backbone of Iran's military -- is unlikely.

This leaves a direct assault against the Iranian economic infrastructure. Although this is the most promising path, it must be remembered that counterinfrastructure and counterpopulation strategic air operations have been tried extensively. The assumption has been that the economic cost of resistance would drive a wedge between the population and the regime, but there is no precedent in the history of air campaigns for this assumption. Such operations have succeeded in only two instances: Japan and Kosovo. In Japan, counterpopulation operations of massive proportions involving conventional weapons were followed by two atomic strikes. Even in that case, there was no split between regime and population, but a decision by the regime to capitulate. The occupation in Kosovo was not so much because of military success as diplomatic isolation. That isolation is not likely to happen in Iran.

In all other cases -- Britain, Germany, Vietnam, Iraq -- air campaigns by themselves did not split the population from the regime or force the regime to change course. In Britain and Vietnam, the campaigns failed completely. In Germany and Iraq (and Kuwait), they succeeded because of follow-on attacks by overwhelming ground forces.

The United States could indeed inflict heavy economic hardship, but history suggests that this is more likely to tighten the people's identification with the government -- not the other way around. In most circumstances, air campaigns have solidified the regime's control over the population, allowing it to justify extreme security measures and generating a condition of intense psychological resistance. In no case has a campaign led to an uprising against the regime. Moreover, a meaningful campaign against economic infrastructure would take some 4 million barrels per day off of the global oil market at a time when oil prices already are closing in on $100 a barrel. Such a campaign is more likely to drive a wedge between the American people and the American government than between the Iranians and their government.

For an air campaign to work, the attacking power must be prepared to bring in an army on the ground to defeat the army that has been weakened by the air campaign -- a tactic Israel failed to apply last summer in Lebanon. Combined arms operations do work, repeatedly. But the condition of the U.S. Army and Marines does not permit the opening of a new theater of operations in Iran. Most important, even if conditions did permit the use of U.S. ground forces to engage and defeat the Iranian army -- a massive operation simply by the size of the country -- the United States does not have the ability to occupy Iran against a hostile population. The Japanese and German nations were crushed completely over many years before an overwhelming force occupied them. What was present there, but not in Iraq, was overwhelming force. That is not an option for Iran.

Finally, consider the Iranian response. Iran does not expect to defeat the U.S. Air Force or Navy, although the use of mine warfare and anti-ship cruise missiles against tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz should not be dismissed. The Iranian solution would be classically asymmetrical. First, they would respond in Iraq, using their assets in the country to further complicate the occupation, as well as to impose as many casualties as possible on the United States. And they would use their forces to increase the difficulty of moving supplies from Kuwait to U.S. forces in central Iraq. They also would try to respond globally using their own forces (the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), as well as Hezbollah and other trained Shiite militant assets, to carry out counterpopulation attacks against U.S. assets around the world, including in the United States.

If the goal is to eliminate Iran's nuclear program, we expect the United States would be able to carry out the mission. If, however, the goal is to compel a change in the Iranian regime or Iranian policy, we do not think the United States can succeed with air forces alone. It would need to be prepared for a follow-on invasion by U.S. forces, coming out of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Those forces are not available at this point and would require several years to develop. That the United States could defeat and occupy Iran is certain. Whether the United States has a national interest in devoting the time and the resources to Iran's occupation is unclear.

The United States could have defeated North Vietnam with a greater mobilization of forces. However, Washington determined that the defeat of North Vietnam and the defense of Indochina were not worth the level of effort required. Instead, it tried to achieve its ends with the resources it was prepared to devote to the mission. As a result, resources were squandered and the North Vietnamese flag flies over what was Saigon.

The danger of war is that politicians and generals, desiring a particular end, fantasize that they can achieve that end with insufficient resources. This lesson is applicable to Iran.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 02, 2007, 09:14:08 AM
How Europe Can Pressure Iran
November 2, 2007

The U.S. ratcheted up the financial pressure against Tehran last week, unilaterally slapping sanctions on Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, three state-owned banks, and a number of key officials for their involvement in the regime's terrorist financing and WMD-related activities. Realizing the leverage that American financial markets give Washington, senior U.S. Treasury officials have been telling global financial institutions in the last couple of years that doing business with Iran could do great harm to their reputation and complicate their access to the U.S. market. As a result, a number of global institutions -- including Switzerland's UBS and Credit Suisse and Germany's Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank -- have either terminated or dramatically reduced business with Iran.

There are limits to this unilateral strategy, though. Companies and financial institutions that do not operate in the U.S. may be willing to ignore Washington's warnings. But being cut off from New York and the world's other leading financial capital, London, is a risk not too many of these firms would be willing to take. Few could afford to relocate to a smaller financial hub and miss out on the opportunities only the City of London or New York could offer just to continue doing business with Iran.

It is therefore encouraging that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown immediately backed Washington, noting that "we endorse the U.S. administration's efforts to apply further pressure on the Iranian regime." But while public support from the U.S.'s closest ally will undoubtedly help bolster the impact of the unilateral actions, the U.K. could do far more.

If the British government were to send a similarly strong warning to banks, it could dramatically increase the financial pressure on Iran. More than 550 international banks and 170 global security houses have a presence in London. Between $50-100 billion of Middle Eastern money will enter London in the next few years, estimates Peter Weinberg, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs International. Coordinated visits by top U.S. and U.K. officials to major financial institutions could be a particularly effective way to get the message across that business with Iran is risky so long as Tehran ignores the U.N. Security Council orders about its nuclear program. A joint U.S.-U.K. effort might carry particular weight coming on the heels of the Financial Action Task Force's Oct. 11 statement on Iran. Founded by the G7, the 34-country body instructed financial institutions to use "enhanced due diligence" when dealing with Iran to avoid inadvertently contributing to terrorist financing and money laundering. As U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said after Washington's latest step against Tehran: "In dealing with Iran, it is nearly impossible to know one's customer and be assured that one is not unwittingly facilitating the regime's reckless conduct."

While the U.K. wields particularly powerful tools, there may also be other European countries now willing and ready to ramp up financial and economic pressure against Iran. Ideally, this would be done at the European Union level -- something that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been pushing for. But in the absence of a third U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing additional sanctions, many EU countries, primarily Germany, Austria and Spain, appear reluctant. The French have thus suggested that those European countries willing to act need not wait for unanimity. In fact, France has already announced that it is pressing large French companies to refrain from investing in Iran.

A combined initiative by the U.S. and individual European countries to press Iran may strengthen the hand of those in Tehran arguing for accommodation. It would also be a good way to show China, Russia and laggard European governments that with or without them, action will be taken against Iran. If they are dissatisfied with this approach, they should first spell out a realistic alternative that could bring Iran to suspend its enrichment program.

Mr. Clawson is the Washington Institute's deputy director for research and author of several books on Iran. Mr. Jacobson, a senior fellow in the institute's Stein Program on Terrorism, Intelligence, and Policy, previously served as a senior advisor in the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 04, 2007, 08:32:30 AM
Holocaust Denial and Tehran
November 3, 2007; Page A8

Dictatorships bear paradoxes. I came across a set of them 10 years ago, when I hosted a dinner for two female Iranian medical students who'd come to Yale Medical School on a rare academic exchange program. These impressive women had climbed to the top 10th percentile in a man's profession, in a man's country. But I was stunned to learn that -- despite 16 years of education at some of Iran's premiere schools -- neither had ever heard of the word "Holocaust," or thought of Hitler as anything but the German equivalent of Napoleon.

Tehran's Holocaust denial did not begin with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It began in 1979 with the Islamic Revolution and the subsequent miseducation of the entire post-revolutionary generation. The Holocaust did not exist in the textbooks of my two young guests, and there was hardly any literature about it in Persian.

Now, millions of Iranian youths are hearing about the Holocaust for the first time through the airing of a government-sponsored soap opera called "Zero Degree Turn." In it, the Islamic Republic's handpicked director, Hassan Fatthi, breaks the regime's taboos. Beautiful women appear without the Islamic dress code. Men and women also come together, hold hands, and even fall into a fleeting embrace.

In the end, however, the program offers little more than an aesthetically pleasing venue for the regime's usual diatribes. Its linchpin is a conspiracy theory: Two Israeli agents assassinate the chief rabbi of Tehran to frighten the Iranian Jewish community into leaving Iran for Israel. The noble chief of the Iranian embassy in France, Abdol Hossein Sardari, who facilitated the escape of hundreds of Iranian and French Jews by providing them with Iranian passports, is portrayed as a mere opportunist motivated by bribes.

The good news is that Iran is now home to a highly rebellious young generation that is deeply disenchanted with the status quo and suspicious of government propaganda in all its forms, including misinformation about Jews and Israel. Iranians actually possess a healthy curiosity toward Israel. In the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah, for example, young Iranians were reportedly not interested in supporting Hezbollah, and were vehemently against their government's investment in it.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ahmadinejad steals the spotlight. With his threats toward Israel and his dreams of a nuclear Iran he has engendered a fear, however legitimate, that too often blinds Western and Israeli leaders of the broader, more complex realities of the Iranian people. American, European and Israeli media are full of dire warnings about the threat of a nuclear Iran. There is little mention of the plight of the Iranians themselves, or the ripe opportunity presented by a nation disenchanted with 30 years of theocratic rule: A people that has historically been friendly to Jews, can, with some effort, be so once again.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, along with his coterie of fundamentalist radicals, is already a threat to Israel and the region. But they do not represent everyday Iranians. And as much as the regime in Tehran would like to deny it, a more accepting, rational view of Israel was once held by Iranian leaders.

In the early 1960s, several leading Iranian intellectuals traveled to Israel on the invitation of the Israeli foreign ministry and for the most part, the travelogues of their trips amounted to what may be the longest love letter to Israel ever to be penned in Persian. That sentiment, of course, would change dramatically. But for several years at least, it seemed that it would determine the attitude of an entire generation toward Israel.

Iran's Holocaust education could begin in Iran itself. Through the Port of Pahlavi in 1942, tens of thousands of Polish refugees, Jewish and non-Jewish, escaped the Nazis found a safe haven in Iran. Eventually, the majority of them relocated to other parts of the world. Yet, hundreds fell in love with "Persia" and stayed. Iranians could learn of their shared history with the Jewish people by visiting the hundreds of Polish graves in Tehran's Doulab cemetery alone.

Despite the regime's anti-Semitic rhetoric, the people have held fast to the values of their ancient civilization. They pride themselves on the idea that they have accepted members of other religions and ethnicities as equals, and as Iranians.

Ms. Hakakian is the author of "Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran" (Three Rivers Press, 2005), a memoir of growing up Jewish in Iran.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 12, 2007, 05:32:18 PM

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called domestic critics of his nuclear policies "traitors" who spied for Iran's enemies, The Associated Press reported Nov. 12. Ahmadinejad also warned that he would expose the critics. "If internal elements do not stop pressures concerning the nuclear issue, they will be exposed to the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to students at Tehran's Science and Industry University. "We have made promises to the people and believe anyone giving up over the nuclear issue is a traitor."

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 13, 2007, 09:05:05 AM

IRAN, CHINA: Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Iran for talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki regarding Tehran's nuclear program, state news agency IRNA reported. Ahead of the visit, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying, "We urge Iran to respond to the concerns of the international community and take a more flexible stance so as to promote a resolution on the issue."

U.K., IRAN: The United Kingdom plans to push to curb investments in Iran if the Iranian government fails to address the nuclear issue, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Nov. 12, according to media reports. Unless EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the International Atomic Energy Agency provide positive reports on Iran's activities, Brown said his country "will lead in seeking tougher sanctions both at the United Nations and in the European Union, including on oil and gas investment and the financial sector."

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: DougMacG on November 14, 2007, 09:36:48 AM
This Asia Times article (below) makes an amazing observation on Iran demographics.  The fertility rate in Iran has fallen to only 0.66 children per female, a third of the population replacement rate of  2.1. A generation ago, it stood at 6.5.  One tenth of what it was.

First my own quick comments on the previous two posts in the Iran thread: 1) The Chinese visiting Iran is definitely interesting.  We will know how it went when it comes time for China to vote on sanctions. But China's vote will tell more about the state of Chinese relations with the US than about Iran's nuclear program.  2) Iran President 'Nut-job' may call protesters "traitors", call for wiping Israel off the map, deny the holocaust, build explosive devices that kill Americans, pursue nuclear weapons, etc. but the mainstream here didn't take notice until he denied there are gays in Iran. Go figure.

Why Iran is dying for a fight   (excerpt)

Iran's demographic catastrophe in the making, I have long argued, impels Tehran to stake its claim for regional empire quickly, while it still has the manpower to do so. Now one of the world's most attentive students of the global South, Prof Philip Jenkins, has taken notice of Iran's population bust and come to a conclusion diametrically opposite to mine. Writing in the November 9 New Republic, he opines, "there's a good chance that [Iran's] declining fertility rates will usher in a new era of stability...".

It pains me to take Prof Jenkins to the woodshed - I gave his last book a glowing review [1] - but it does not seem to have occurred to him that things which make peace inevitable in the long run may propel countries into war in the short run. The textbook example (if we had a competent textbook) would be France in 1914, which sought a quick war because its falling birth rate ensured that it could not beat Germany unless it did so immediately.

Population decline eventually leads to stability, but not necessarily by a direct path.

Before Iran is buried, it will have occasion to command the undivided attention of the West. The rulers of the Persian pocket-empire know better than Jenkins that today's soldiers will become pensioners a generation hence, turning a belligerent and ambitious country into an impoverished, geriatric ruin. They believe that Iran has a last opportunity for greatness, on which they will stake their last dinar. I summarized the evidence in a series of essays in this space, including The demographics of radical Islam (Aug 23, 2005) and Demographics and Iran's imperial design (Sept 13, 2005).

As Jenkins reports, Iran's fertility rate has fallen to only 0.66 children per female, a third of the population replacement rate of 2.1. A generation ago, it stood at 6.5. In other words, Iran presently has a bulge of military-age men as cannon-fodder. In a generation it will not be able to fill the ranks.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 14, 2007, 10:44:33 AM
The birth rate numbers stated in the article are quite extraordinary-- working from memory here of my reading of Mark Steyn's "America Alone", Germany is a disaster at 1.3 and Spain is in a virtual spiral down the drain at 1.1 (2.1 is the level at which a population maintains), but .66?!?  After 6.5?!?  If I calculate correctly, at 6.5 rate means that there was a population growth rate of 4.4%!!!  Still working from memory, when I studied Mexico in the seventies its pop growth rate was 3.6 or so (which was considered off the charts, and 4.4% is roughly 4/3 of that rate!!!)  and that the numbers cranked out to half its population being 16 years of age or less. 

I must say that I find both numbers highly unusual and would like to see some sort of confirmation elsewhere.
Title: Iran's Revolutionary Guards
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 15, 2007, 07:52:28 PM
Who Are Iran's Revolutionary Guards?
November 15, 2007; Page A25

The scene is a board meeting of Bank Sepah, Iran's second-largest financial institution, in Tehran. The directors are waiting for the sardar (literally "head-owner") to arrive. But the sardar is in a changing room, shedding his uniform for a civilian suit. The man in question is Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the new commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which owns and controls the bank.

Most Americans already know more about the IRGC than they'd like to. In September the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a nonbinding resolution urging President Bush to label the IRGC a terrorist group. He did so a month later and has since implemented harsh new sanctions targeting the business interests of the IRGC. As Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told the press recently, "It is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business with the IRGC."

Still, there is much about this organization that is misunderstood. The IRGC is a unique beast. It is an army answerable to no one but the "Supreme Leader" of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is also a business conglomerate that controls over 500 companies active in a wide range of industries -- from nuclear power to banking, life insurance to holiday resorts and shopping centers. By most estimates, the IRGC is Iran's third-largest corporation -- after the National Iranian Oil Company and the Imam Reza Endowment in the "holy" city of Mashhad, northeast of Tehran.

The Islamic Republic established by the Ayatollah Khomeini after the ouster of the Shah in 1979, is often labeled a "mullahrchy" -- a theocracy dominated by the Shiite clergy. The truth, however, is that a majority of Shiite clerics never converted to Khomeinism and did not endorse the Islamic Republic. In the past few years, especially since the election of President Ahmadinejad in 2005, those mullahs who converted to Khomeinism have lost some of their power and privileges. Today, the IRGC is the dominant force within the ruling establishment in Tehran. It is not a monolith, and to label all of it a "terrorist" organization as the Bush administration has done, may make it difficult to strike deals with parts of it when, and if, the opportunity arises.

A thorough analysis of the IRGC must take into account a number of facts. First, the IRGC is not a revolutionary army in the sense that the ALN was in Algeria or the Vietcong in Vietnam. Those were born during revolutionary wars in which they became key players.

The IRGC was created after the Khomeinist revolution had succeeded. This fact is of crucial importance. Those who joined the IRGC came from all sorts of backgrounds. The majority were opportunists. By joining the IRGC, they could not only obtain revolutionary credentials, often on fictitious grounds, but would also secure well-paying jobs, at a time that economic collapse made jobs rare.

Joining the IRGC enabled many who had cooperated with the ancien regime to rewrite their CVs and obtain "revolutionary virginity." Membership of the IRGC ensured access to rare goods and services, from color TVs to more decent housing. As the years went by, IRGC membership provided a fast track to social, political and economic success. Today, half of President Ahmadinejad's cabinet ministers are members of the IRGC, as is the president himself. IRGC members hold nearly a third of seats in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis), the ersatz parliament created in 1979. Twenty of Iran's 30 provinces have governors from the IRGC. IRGC members have also started capturing key posts in the diplomatic service. Today, for the first time, the Islamic Republic's ambassadors in such important places as the United Nations in New York and embassies in a dozen Western capitals are members of the IRGC.

But it is as an economic power that the IRGC weighs so heavily on Iranian politics. In 2004, a Tehran University study estimated the annual turnover of IRGC businesses at $12 billion with total net profits of $1.9 billion. The privatization package prepared by President Ahmadinejad is likely to increase the IRGC's economic clout. Almost all of the public-sector companies marked for privatization -- at a total value of $18 billion -- are likely to end up in the hands of the IRGC and its individual commanders.

The crown jewel of the IRGC's business empire is the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, which has cost the nation over $10 billion so far. This is part of a broader scheme of arms purchases and manufacture, which in total accounts for almost 11% of the annual national budget.

The IRGC also controls the lucrative business of "exporting the revolution" estimated to be worth $1.2 billion a year. It finances branches of the Hezbollah movement in at least 20 countries, including some in Europe, and provides money, arms and training for radical groups with leftist backgrounds. In recent years, it has emerged as a major backer of the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas and both Shiite and Sunni armed groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The vehicle through which the IRGC "exports" revolution is a special unit known as The Quds (Jerusalem) Force. This consists of 15,000 highly trained men and women specializing in "martyrdom operations," a code word for guerrilla war, armed insurgency and terrorism. The Islamic Republic has invested some $20 billion in Lebanon since 1983. In most cases, the Lebanese branch of the Hezbollah is nominally in control. However, a closer examination reveals that in most cases the Lebanese companies are fronts for Iranian concerns controlled by the IRGC.

The IRGC is divided into five commands, each of which has a direct line to the Ayatollah Khamenei. To minimize the risk of coup d'etat, IRGC's senior officers are not allowed to engage in "sustained communication" with one another on "sensitive subjects." Of the five commands in question, two could be regarded as "terrorist" according to the U.S. State Department's definition that, needless to say, is rejected by the Islamic Republic.

One command is in charge of the already mentioned Quds Corps, which is waging indirect war against U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apart from Hezbollah and Hamas, it also runs a number of radical groups across the globe.

The second command ensures internal repression. It operates through several auxiliary forces, including the notorious Karbala, Ashura and Al Zahra (an all female unit) brigades, which are charged with crushing popular revolt. Many Iranians see these as instruments of terror.

As a parallel to the regular army, the IRGC has its ground forces, navy and air force. It also controls the so-called Basij Mustadafin (mobilization of the dispossessed), a fanatical, semi-voluntary force of 90,000 full-time fighters that could be built up to 11 million according to its commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi. The IRGC's own strength stands at 125,000 men. Its officers' corps, including those in retirement, numbers around 55,000 and is as divided on domestic and foreign policies as the rest of society.

Some IRGC former commanders who did not share the Islamic Republic's goals have already defected to the U.S. Hundreds of others have gone into low-profile exile, mostly as businessmen in the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Turkey. An unknown number were purged because they refused to kill anti-regime demonstrators in Iranian cities.

Many prominent IRGC commanders may be regarded as businessmen first and military leaders second. Usually, they have a brother or a cousin in Europe or Canada to look after their business interests and keep a channel open to small and big "satans" in case the regime falls.

A few IRGC commanders, including some at the top, do not relish a conflict with the U.S. that could destroy their business empires without offering Iran victory on the battlefield. Indeed, there is no guarantee that, in case of a major war, all parts of the IRGC would show the same degree of commitment to the system. IRGC commanders may be prepared to kill unarmed Iranians or hire Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi radicals to kill others. However, it is not certain they would be prepared to die for President Ahmadinejad's glory. These concerns persuaded Ayatollah Khamenei to announce a Defense Planning Commission last year, controlled by his office.

A blanket labeling of the IRGC as "terrorist," as opposed to targeting elements of it that terrorize the Iranian people and others in the region and beyond, could prove counterproductive. It may, in fact, unite a fractious force that could splinter into more manageable parts given the right incentives.

Inside Iran, the IRGC is known as pasdaran (vigilantes) and inspires a mixture of intense hatred and grudging admiration. While many Iranians see it as a monster protecting an evil regime, others believe that, when the crunch comes, it will side with the people against an increasingly repressive and unpopular regime.

Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 16, 2007, 06:32:18 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iranian Nuclear Questions

A lot of discussion is circulating about just how cooperative the Iranians are when it gets down to coming clean on their nuclear program. Earlier this week, it is significant to note that Iran decided to hand over a set of blueprints to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that detail how to shape weapons-grade uranium into a form usable in a nuclear warhead. After all, there has been a lot of talk about the Americans and the Iranians getting together for another round of negotiations over Iraq. And these Iraq negotiations are intrinsically linked to the Iranian nuclear program. If Tehran expects to negotiate effectively over Iraq, it makes sense to throw out such confidence-building measures in order to set the mood.

But this is still not enough for the IAEA, much less the European Union and United States. In fact, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei -- under heavy pressure from the Europeans and Americans -- admitted on Thursday that Iran has only offered selective cooperation in providing access to its program. He said the agency's knowledge about Iran's current nuclear program is diminishing since it has not received the type of information that Iran had been providing since early 2006. Not coincidentally, the first part of 2006 was an extremely heated period of assassinations, defections and abductions in the ongoing covert intelligence war involving the United States, Israel and Iran.

So, was this latest concession from Iran to the IAEA simply a failed attempt to sweeten ElBaradei into putting out a report lauding Tehran for its cooperation (and thereby give Iran more bandwidth to skirt sanctions)? Or is Iran seriously trying to pursue talks with the United States over Iraq by putting the nuclear issue on the negotiating table? The two possibilities are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but it is important to see through the blustery rhetoric on all sides to make sense of what these nuclear negotiations are all about.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, according to a Reuter's source close to him, has instructed his Cabinet to draft proposals on how Israel will cope with a nuclear Iran. The prime minister's office denies the report. But it makes perfect sense for Israel to be drafting such contingency plans. Nonetheless, Israel does not want to give the impression that it sees a nuclear Iran as inevitable.

Quite to the contrary, the United States and Israel could even be ramping up efforts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear experiment. A report cropped up earlier this week on a "series of explosions" that took place in southern Iran at the Parchin military complex, about 19 miles southeast of Tehran, where Iran is suspected of housing a nuclear weapons research and development facility. Though Iran's semi-official Fars news agency is reporting in an almost defensive tone that the site where the explosion took place is a "nonmilitary area at a tire and wastes storage place," Iran's principal exiled opposition organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is going to great lengths to suggest the incident was a covert attack that the Iranian regime and its media outlets are covering up. Though allegations from this organization can often be dubious, it would not be beyond the pale of certain intelligence organizations to shake up the Iranians in this fashion. The Israeli Mossad has been conducting a covert campaign to take out key Iranian nuclear scientists for some time, and these operations, according to our sources, are continuing.

That said, we do not yet have any evidence to back up this claim. And if the Iranians were actually being sincere about their cooperation on the nuclear issue, the United States and its allies would likely be taking some care to not rock the boat too much. In any case, the Fars report should not be taken for granted; this is one "accident" worth investigating.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 27, 2007, 05:57:19 AM
1245 GMT -- IRAN -- Iran has constructed a new missile with a range of 1,240 miles, Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said Nov. 27, media reported. The weapon, named "Ashura," has a long enough range to reach Israel as well as U.S. bases in the Middle East, according to the reports.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 05, 2007, 06:28:07 AM
There are several very important posts on the NIE revision in the "Big Picture WW3" thread in the last few days, but now I begin posting on this subject in this thread, beginning with a very important timeline by Stratfor:


Iran's Nuclear Gambit: A Timeline of Events

The release of a new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate that says Iran quit work on its nuclear weapons program four years ago marks a momentous shift in the dynamics of the Middle East, as well as in the relationships among the United States, Iran and Iraq. This timeline shows how events have played out in recent years.


On Dec. 3, the United States released a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that says Iran halted work on its nuclear weapons program in 2003. This is an extremely significant development.

At first glance, it might appear that this report -- a compilation of information from all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies -- is an attempt by the intelligence community to undermine the Bush administration's dealings with and position on Iran. Its contents negate the rationale for any future U.S. military action against the country, and directly contradict many of the past assertions of the U.S. leadership, which has repeatedly said that Iran is a dangerous nation bent on building up its nuclear arsenal.

In reality, this document marks a momentous shift in the dynamics of the Middle East, as well as in the relationships among the United States, Iran and Iraq. As Stratfor has said many times, Iran's nuclear program primarily represents a bargaining chip to be used as leverage in Tehran's talks with the United States in order to gain it concessions in Iraq. The NIE indicates that Washington and Tehran have made significant progress in this back-channel back-and-forth, and that the positive signs coming out of Iraq lately have culminated in some sort of agreement.

The battle over Iran's nuclear plans and the future of Iraq has not been an easy one. Stratfor has carefully monitored its development, and we have explained the intrinsic link between Tehran's nuclear program and the U.S.-Iranian negotiations. Following is Stratfor's account of the events that have shaped this process since the lead-up in 2002 to the Iraq war:

October 2002: As U.S. military intervention in Iraq seems increasingly inevitable, Iranian-U.S. back-channel meetings accelerate while Iran looks to extract political concessions from the United States over Iraq in return for its cooperation. With the aid of Ahmed Chalabi, Iran coaxes the United States into Iraq with intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

January 2003: A top Iranian official says his country supports U.S. efforts to disarm Iraq. The announcement signals that Iran has implicitly approved a U.S. war, despite its concerns of U.S. military action spilling across its border. Stratfor believes such support will open the door to U.S.-Iranian cooperation.

March 2003: The United States invades Iraq, and swiftly topples the Iraqi regime. In return for cracking down on al Qaeda fugitives in Iran and guaranteeing Shiite cooperation during the invasion, Iran is expecting Washington to allow Baghdad to fall in Tehran's hands.

April 2003: Iran, fearing that the United States will renege on its end of the deal, sparks a major Shiite uprising to remind Washington of its ability to send Iraq up in flames. U.S.-Iranian relations are on the decline.

May 2003: With some nudging from the Russians, Iran feels out the United States for a deal, with strong indications that Tehran has agreed to hand over al Qaeda suspects to the United States or a third country. Iran follows up with a letter to the U.S. government calling for a comprehensive deal over Iraq in which it would cooperate on its nuclear program. Still confident in its ability to handle the insurgency and unwilling to be held hostage to Iran's geopolitical ambitions, the United States rebuffs the offer and concludes that the Iranians and Iraqi Shia are undependable allies, and that a deal with Iran is no longer necessary to bring order to Iraq.

June 2003: Angered by the U.S. double-cross, Iran creates a crisis with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over its nuclear program and wavers back and forth in its nuclear negotiations with the Europeans.

July 2003: Still evaluating its next steps, the United States reconsiders the need to negotiate with Iran, and calls in the services of former Secretary of State James Baker in Iraq.

October 2003: Progress is again seen on the U.S-Iranian negotiating front as Iran opens the doors to the IAEA and British, French and German foreign ministers for talks on nuclear facility inspections. Arab governments, concerned about a possible U.S.-Iranian alliance in Iraq, look to establish a common policy to curb both Washington and Tehran.

Fall 2003: Iran halts its nuclear weapons program, according to the NIE released Dec. 3, 2007.

January 2004: In the wake of a massive December earthquake that destroyed the Iranian city of Bam, the United States offers to send a humanitarian delegation to Tehran led by Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C. Iran rejects the offer, saying the timing is not right. Tehran also says Washington must respect Iran before contacts between the countries can take place.

February 2004: After months of issuing paradoxical statements on its nuclear program, Iran emerges out of February parliamentary elections with a conservative-controlled parliament. With the ability to look beyond the domestic front, the Iranian government once again signals it is ready to do business with the United States.

May 2004: Iran demonstrates its cooperation by getting involved in negotiations between Washington and Shiite rebel leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

June 2004: The United States looks favorably upon Saudi Arabia's increased involvement in the Iraq war, much to Iran's chagrin. The Iranians seek added leverage in the negotiations and engage in several tit-for-tat diplomatic spats, including the seizure of three British patrol boats along the Iraq-Iran border. The ensuing months follow the same theme of increased tensions between Washington and Tehran.

November 2004: Iran agrees -- for the time being -- to comply with IAEA demands to halt enrichment activity in the interest of securing a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad for the December and January legislative elections.

February-March 2005: After a Shiite-dominated government in Iraq is established, the Iranian nuclear issue flares up again as Iran works to keep the United States out of its nuclear talks with France, Germany and the United Kingdom in order to maintain its leverage. U.S. war rhetoric against Iran picks up steam in the coming month, prompting Iran to come clean on its nuclear program.

June-August 2005: Mysterious explosions occur in Tehran and the Arab-majority town of Ahwaz, sparking Iranian suspicions that Western intelligence agencies are riling up an anti-regime movement. Iranian presidential elections yield a surprise result, in which Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani admits defeat and black-horse candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rises to power.

September 2005: By now it is clear that Ahmadinejad's election was part of Iran's nuclear bargaining strategy to project a carefully honed image of irrationality to convince the Americans of the utility of dealing with Iran. Ahmadinejad's fiery anti-Israeli rhetoric leads to division within the ruling ranks in Tehran over how to deal with the United States. The United States also returns the Iranian snub over the Bam earthquake aid offer by rejecting an Iranian offer of 20 million barrels of oil in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The offer was made on the condition that Washington lift trade sanctions against Iran.

December 2005-January 2006: The United States attempts to re-create Iran's worst nightmare by throwing its support behind Iraq's Sunnis. Sources in Lebanon reveal major preparations by Hezbollah for a military conflict, suggesting Iran could soon play its Hezbollah card in the negotiations.

February 2006: After the IAEA passes a resolution to present the nuclear file to the U.N. Security Council, Iran returns to a belligerent stance on its nuclear program, threatening to resume industrial-scale enrichment and pull out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

March 2006: Just as things could not look any darker for the United States and Iran, the Iranian government offers to take bilateral back-channel negotiations over Iraq into the public sphere, and the United States accepts. Iran is not ready to sacrifice its nuclear leverage just yet, and reiterates that these talks will address Iraq only.

April 2006: U.S.-Iranian negotiations appear to have hit a snag. The United States proceeds with plans to strip Iran financially and Iran makes a major announcement regarding its nuclear program.

May 2006: Ahmadinejad makes another offer for talks with the United States by sending a peculiar letter to U.S. President George W. Bush proposing fresh ways to mend relations. At the same time, Iran continues its rhetorical blitzkrieg about its nuclear program.

June 2006: Iraq's Sunni camp makes an apparent down payment on a political settlement when al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is killed in a U.S. airstrike. The ball is now in Iran's court to get the Shia to reciprocate. Iraq has reached a break point.

July 2006: Realizing it could push for a better deal with Washington, Iran decides to pull out all stops and flip the negotiating table over by reactivating Hezbollah in Lebanon and drawing Israel into a costly war. Iran sends a clear message that it has assets throughout the region to help it achieve its demands in Iraq.

August-September 2006: Emboldened by its success in Lebanon, Iran strikes a conciliatory tone with the United States again.

October-November 2006: The perception is that the Bush administration is weak and disintegrating. With an aim to shape the November U.S. congressional elections to force a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, Iran activates its proxies to ensure November is the deadliest month to date for U.S. casualties since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

December 2006: The Iraq Study Group releases its report calling for a U.S. dialogue with Iran. Iran still assumes it has cornered the United States into implementing a withdrawal plan, leaving Tehran to pick up the pieces in Iraq.

January 2007: Bush throws off Iranian expectations with his announcement of a new strategy to surge troops into Iraq. The United States couples this strategy with an offer to the Iranians to talk. The Iranians return to the drawing board.

February 2007: The U.S.-Iranian covert intelligence war heats up, as both sides engage in saber-rattling to shore up their negotiating positions. Once again Iran makes a power play in the waters when it seizes a group of British marines and sailors in the Persian Gulf.

March 2007: Realizing their busted flushes in Iraq, U.S. and Iranian officials meet in Baghdad to discuss Iraq.

May 2007: Iran and the United States engage in publicly announced bilateral talks over Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. At the summit, Iran presents a groundbreaking proposal to stabilize Iraq. Iran is careful to keep the nuclear issue out of the negotiations. There are doubts, however, as to whether the regional players can deliver on their end of the deal.

June 2007: The United States considers meeting Iran's demand to unlink the nuclear and Iraq issues in order to move the negotiations forward.

August 2007: U.S. and Iranian diplomats meet in Baghdad to hammer out a security agreement on Iraq. Later in the month, the latest NIE makes it apparent that the U.S. surge strategy is not yet yielding sufficient results and that the strategy must begin to shift. Iran gets excited at the thought of a pending U.S. withdrawal, claiming it will fill the vacuum in Iraq. Bush, however, follows up with another surprise, saying the United States will maintain its surge strategy.

September 2007: Iran issues another feeler for talks with the United States and replaces its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps chief. Washington increases the heat concerning war and sanctions.

October 2007: Iran gets some added leverage when it looks to Russia for a sponsor in its negotiations with the United States over Iraq. For its own interests, Russia acts as Iran's backup and makes more promises to deliver nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr facility. An intra-Iranian debate over next steps in Iraq erupts with the resignation of Iranian national security chief Ali Larijani.

November 2007: With violence dropping in Iraq, the United States feels it is in a strong enough position to move forward in negotiations with Iran. Iran says it will participate in a fourth round of talks on Iraq with the United States. Iran makes a major conciliatory move on the nuclear front when it hands over a set of blueprints to the IAEA that details how to shape weapons-grade uranium into a form usable in a nuclear warhead. Though no date has been set, it looks as though the atmosphere is being set for a serious round of negotiations between the United States and Iran.

December 2007: In a massive reversal of U.S. policymaking, the U.S. intelligence community releases an NIE report that claims Iran had stopped work on a nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003, though its intentions still remain unclear. With the rationale for U.S. military aggression against Iran gone, negotiations between Washington and Tehran are more serious than ever.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 07, 2007, 10:57:08 AM

Pissing the whole world off, one person at a time.

  Posted December 06, 2007 12:00 PM  Hide Post

The Flaws In the Iran Report
By John R. Bolton
Thursday, December 6, 2007; A29

Rarely has a document from the supposedly hidden world of intelligence had such an impact as the National Intelligence Estimate released this week. Rarely has an administration been so unprepared for such an event. And rarely have vehement critics of the "intelligence community" on issues such as Iraq's weapons of mass destruction reversed themselves so quickly.

All this shows that we not only have a problem interpreting what the mullahs in Tehran are up to, but also a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation rather than "intelligence" analysis, and too many in Congress and the media are happy about it. President Bush may not be able to repair his Iran policy (which was not rigorous enough to begin with) in his last year, but he would leave a lasting legacy by returning the intelligence world to its proper function.

Consider these flaws in the NIE's "key judgments," which were made public even though approximately 140 pages of analysis, and reams of underlying intelligence, remain classified.

First, the headline finding -- that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- is written in a way that guarantees the totality of the conclusions will be misread. In fact, there is little substantive difference between the conclusions of the 2005 NIE on Iran's nuclear capabilities and the 2007 NIE. Moreover, the distinction between "military" and "civilian" programs is highly artificial, since the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran's "civilian" program that posed the main risk of a nuclear "breakout."

The real differences between the NIEs are not in the hard data but in the psychological assessment of the mullahs' motives and objectives. The current NIE freely admits to having only moderate confidence that the suspension continues and says that there are significant gaps in our intelligence and that our analysts dissent from their initial judgment on suspension. This alone should give us considerable pause.

Second, the NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, not exactly a diplomatic pas de deux. As undersecretary of state for arms control in 2003, I know we were nowhere near exerting any significant diplomatic pressure on Iran. Nowhere does the NIE explain its logic on this critical point. Moreover, the risks and returns of pursuing a diplomatic strategy are policy calculations, not intelligence judgments. The very public rollout in the NIE of a diplomatic strategy exposes the biases at work behind the Potemkin village of "intelligence."

Third, the risks of disinformation by Iran are real. We have lost many fruitful sources inside Iraq in recent years because of increased security and intelligence tradecraft by Iran. The sudden appearance of new sources should be taken with more than a little skepticism. In a background briefing, intelligence officials said they had concluded it was "possible" but not "likely" that the new information they were relying on was deception. These are hardly hard scientific conclusions. One contrary opinion came from -- of all places -- an unnamed International Atomic Energy Agency official, quoted in the New York Times, saying that "we are more skeptical. We don't buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran." When the IAEA is tougher than our analysts, you can bet the farm that someone is pursuing a policy agenda.

Fourth, the NIE suffers from a common problem in government: the overvaluation of the most recent piece of data. In the bureaucracy, where access to information is a source of rank and prestige, ramming home policy changes with the latest hot tidbit is commonplace, and very deleterious. It is a rare piece of intelligence that is so important it can conclusively or even significantly alter the body of already known information. Yet the bias toward the new appears to have exerted a disproportionate effect on intelligence analysis.

Fifth, many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence. These officials had relatively benign views of Iran's nuclear intentions five and six years ago; now they are writing those views as if they were received wisdom from on high. In fact, these are precisely the policy biases they had before, recycled as "intelligence judgments."

That such a flawed product could emerge after a drawn-out bureaucratic struggle is extremely troubling. While the president and others argue that we need to maintain pressure on Iran, this "intelligence" torpedo has all but sunk those efforts, inadequate as they were. Ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions in an essentially unmolested fashion, to the detriment of us all.

John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad." He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Title: I hadn't thought of that , , ,
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 10, 2007, 01:50:27 PM
George Friedman of Stratfor:

We also think there was a political component to it (NIE) being announced.  This was not the intelligence community sinking Bush’s plans to attack Iran. The U.S. doesn’t’ have the force to attack Iran, as we have argued in the past. Rather, it as Bush taking away their bargaining chip. If Iran has no nuclear program, the U.S. doesn’t have to make concessions to get rid of it. In an odd way, the NIE weakened the Iranian bargaining position.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: DougMacG on December 10, 2007, 04:16:20 PM
John Bolton's piece here explores the NIE flawed product possibility based on among other things the over-reliance on the most recent information and the pre-existence of bias in the writers.  It's funny how quick people are to trust the conclusions now right as we learn they were wrong last time.  Also wrong were intelligence conclusions in Iraq and they completely missed foretelling other events such as the Iranian revolution, Saddam invading Kuwait and the collapse of the Soviet empire.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 11, 2007, 01:09:51 AM
Speculation:  Was there a motive here on the part of a certain faction of the CIA to pre-empt/prevent any risk that President Bush would pre-empt Iran?

I'm reading that not only the Israelis, but also the Brits are doubting the NIE's current conclusion , , ,
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: DougMacG on December 11, 2007, 08:15:31 AM
'Was there a CIA motive to keep US from striking Iran?'

Yes. 1) CIA careerists disagree with preemption and any other policy if it originates from this administration, and 2) they don't want the humiliation of being wrong again. So they took a mixed report and picked the risk-gone headline.  Same report could just as easily have been titled 'Iran shifted uranium enrichment to civilian facilities'.

The Stratfor statement that "The U.S. doesn’t have the force to attack Iran" is strange to me.  Certainly we would not attempt a million troop ground force occupation in Iran, but more importantly we don't have the accurate and compelling intelligence combined with the necessary will to perform Osiraq-like target strikes on facilities in either Iran or North Korea before Bush's term expires.  I doubt we lack the equipment.

In this case and with the missile defense concessions handed to Putin, I would like to think that we are not always on the losing end of the mind games played with tyrants.  In order to move an adversary's position in difficult negotiations, it's necessary to hand them something for saving face or to change the stakes.  My estimation of the current Iran strategy is that we contain them best by winning right now in Iraq.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 12, 2007, 06:36:15 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran Responds to the NIE

Iran's Fars news agency on Tuesday reported comments by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in response to the Dec. 3 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. The statements were, to say the least, interesting. Ahmadinejad called the document "a positive step forward." He went on to say, "If one or two other steps are taken, the conditions will be ripe and will lose their complexities, and the way will be open for interactions between the two sides."

One of the things he wants is for the United States to acknowledge that Iran never had a nuclear program. However, it is clear from the context that he doesn't expect or actually care about this. He said, "We do not say that in the report there is no problem and there is no imprecision or error. We welcomed the report as a whole and as a step forward. A part of the report approved the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities. There was, of course, another part which made some references to the past, and if the U.S. intelligence body conducts a more precise study, it will confirm the views of Iran."

His second point was more fundamental. "One of the steps that need to be taken is a major change in [the U.S.] regional position. They need to respect the rights of the countries in the region. Regional nations have rights and want to fully use their rights. Respecting these rights is a serious change in strategy. This is the next step. If this happens, you will be able to see the results."

It seems to us that he was talking about Iraq, saying that this is the next set of changes Iran wants to see. But Ahmadinejad's summation was this: "The main body of the problem has been resolved. There are no ambiguities, and the ground has been set for cooperation on different issues."

Most interesting of all was Ahmadinejad's claim that Iran has been approached by the U.S. government for permission to send emissaries to Iran. He said, "Many requests reach us from American officials for dialogue and travel to Iran, and we are studying these requests." This is an interesting assertion, and there has been enough time for the White House or the State Department to deny it. Neither one has. It is altogether possible that these were simply requests from U.S. scholars or minor government employees for visas to travel to Iran, and that Ahmadinejad is trying to make them into something more. Or it might well be that the Bush administration is seeking more contacts with Iran, in addition to the two upcoming meetings that have been agreed upon by both sides.

Ahmadinejad is going to make everything he can of this. If diplomacy goes forward, he will want it to appear that the United States unilaterally initiated it -- hence the claim that the United States is asking to send officials. When asked what else the United States should do, Ahmadinejad said, "Let us not get into a hurry. Let [the Americans] follow and stabilize the step they have taken. Our addressee understands our words."

Obviously, Ahmadinejad is trying hard to spin this into a triumph. But the interesting parts of the Fars interview are that Ahmadinejad, for all his posturing, regards the shift in U.S. policy as significant; that he is considering further contacts with the Americans; and that there is something he wants Washington to do above all else, which we assume is remove sanctions. There is implied here an Iranian openness to something.

In any case, Iran has issued a response, and two meetings will be held. Certainly, this weird honeymoon could collapse overnight, but for the moment, there is clearly a diplomatic probing going on that has to be watched carefully.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 14, 2007, 06:22:08 PM
So much for that modesty campaign , , ,
Title: Can we actually be up to something intelligent?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 17, 2007, 12:43:05 PM

IRAN: Russia's first shipment of fuel to Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant gives Iran one more reason to suspend its uranium enrichment program, a White House spokesman said. He added that if Iran is getting fuel from Russia, it does not need its own program.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 18, 2007, 11:30:09 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The U.S.-Iranian Dance

The Russians said on Monday they have delivered their first fuel shipment to the Iranian power plant at Bushehr. This fulfills a long-standing Russian agreement with Iran, which was reaffirmed at the meeting of Caspian Sea nations held in Tehran in October. The same day, U.S. President George W. Bush said at a press conference, without prompting, "If the Iranians accept that uranium for a civilian nuclear power plant, then there's no need for them to learn how to enrich." A White House spokesman later said, "There is no doubt that Russia and the rest of the world want to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon." Monday's announcement provides one more avenue for the Iranians to make a strategic choice to suspend enrichment.

The Iranians also have said they will continue to enrich their own uranium. The Israelis have pointed to the uranium enrichment program as proof that the Iranians are developing a nuclear weapon, saying enriched uranium constitutes the essence of a nuclear weapons program; Bush also focused on uranium enrichment.

If the intelligence community imposed the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Bush against his will, this would be the perfect time for him to reverse it. That the Iranians are continuing to enrich uranium in spite of Russia's decision could easily be construed as part of an Iranian weapons program. Bush so far has not done that. In fact, aside from assertions by others that the NIE blindsided him, there is no evidence whatever of it. Both Bush and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney publicly endorsed the NIE and no steps have been taken to reverse it. If the president had wanted to reverse it, this was the time to do so. He has not, at least not yet.

Apart from everything else, there is the basic assumption that enriching uranium constitutes a weapons program. Enriched uranium is a necessary condition for building one sort of device, but it is far from being a sufficient condition. As we have said before, there are multiple, non-nuclear technologies needed to build a weapon that can be mounted on a missile, attached to an aircraft or stowed in the hull of a ship. First the weapon must be miniaturized, which is far from easy to do. It then must be ruggedized to withstand the extraordinary stresses of delivery. For example, a nuclear weapon must be small enough to fit on a missile but rugged enough to withstand the high Gs of launch, vibration, vacuum and extreme temperatures -- not to mention moisture. These are not trivial technologies. It is the difference between having a device that can be exploded under special conditions, and one that can take out a city.

But the technology is not the key -- it simply is the analytic justification for Bush to support the NIE as he has, and to be much calmer with the Russian action and Iranian response than he would have been a few months ago. The key is to be found in a scheduled Dec. 18 meeting the Iranians postponed. The Iranians and Americans were supposed to meet in Baghdad to discuss security in Iraq. The United States is looking for reciprocity from the Iranians. So far it has not gotten it; on the contrary, the Iranians have been publicly uncooperative and truculent.

Bush has certain room to run with this strategy. But the more truculent the Iranians, the more he will be under pressure to revert to his prior position, which is that Iran has a nuclear program and is a danger to the world. The same rationale that allows the NIE to state that there is no nuclear program in spite of an enrichment program allows a reversal of a finding. The definition of a nuclear program is more than a little complex, and, as the NIE proves, is subject to reinterpretations depending on political necessity. Bush went with the redefinition expecting reciprocity on other issues from Iran. If it does not happen, he can again change course.
Title: The Strait of Hormuz incident
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 16, 2008, 06:26:16 AM
The Strait of Hormuz Incident and U.S. Strategy

By George Friedman


Iranian speedboats reportedly menaced U.S. warships in the Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 6. Since then, the United States has gone to great lengths to emphasize the threat posed by Iran to U.S. forces in the strait — and, by extension, to the transit of oil from the Persian Gulf region. The revelation of an Iranian threat in the Strait of Hormuz was very helpful to the United States, coming as it did just before U.S. President George W. Bush's trip to the region. Washington will use the incident to push for an anti-Iranian coalition among the Gulf Arabs, as well as to push Iran into publicly working with the United States on the Iraq problem.


According to U.S. reports and a released video, a substantial number of Iranian speedboats approached a three-ship U.S. naval convoy moving through the strait near Iranian territory Jan. 6. (Word of the incident first began emerging Jan. 7.) In addition, the United States reported receiving a threatening message from the boats.


Following the incident, the United States began to back away from the claim that the Iranians had issued threats, saying that the source of the transmission might have been hecklers who coincidentally transmitted threats as the Iranian boats maneuvered among the U.S. ships. Shore-based harassing transmissions are not uncommon in the region, or in other parts of the world for that matter, especially when internationally recognized bridge-to-bridge frequencies are used. And it is difficult if not impossible to distinguish the source of a transmission during a short, intense incident such as this. The combination of Iranian craft in close proximity to U.S. warships and the transmission, regardless of the source, undoubtedly increased the sense of danger.


Two things are interesting. First, the probability of a disciplined Iranian attack — and, by U.S. Navy accounts, the Iranian action was disciplined — being preceded by a warning is low. The Iranians were not about to give away the element of surprise, which would have been essential for an effective attack. While the commander on the scene does not have the luxury we have of dismissing the transmission out of hand — in fact, the commander must assume the worst — its existence decreases the likelihood of an attack. Attacking ships need every second they can get to execute their mission; had the Iranians been serious, they would have wanted to appear as nonthreatening as possible for as long as possible.


Second, the U.S. ships did not open fire. We do not know the classified rules of engagement issued to U.S. ship captains operating in the Strait of Hormuz, but the core guidance of those rules is that a captain must protect his ship and crew from attack at all times. Particularly given the example of the USS Cole, which was attacked by a speedboat in a Yemeni harbor, it is difficult for us to imagine a circumstance under which a ship captain in the U.S. Navy would not open fire if the Iranian boats already represented a significant threat.


Spokesmen for the 5th Fleet said Jan. 13 that the U.S. ships were going through the process of determining the threat and preparing to fire when the Iranians disengaged and disappeared. That would indicate that speed, distance and bearing were not yet at a point that required a response, and that therefore the threat level had not yet risen to the redline. Absent the transition to a threat, it is not clear that this incident would have risen above multiple encounters between U.S. warships and Iranian boats in the tight waters of Hormuz.


The New York Times carried a story Jan. 12, clearly leaked to it by the Pentagon, giving some context for U.S. concerns. According to the story, the United States had carried out war games attempting to assess the consequences of a swarming attack by large numbers of speedboats carrying explosives and suicide crews. The results of the war games were devastating. In a game carried out in 2002, the U.S. Navy lost 16 major warships, including an aircraft carrier, cruisers and amphibious ships — all in attacks lasting 5-10 minutes. Fleet defenses were overwhelmed by large numbers of small, agile speedboats, some armed with rockets and other weapons, but we assume most operated as manned torpedoes.


The decision to reveal the results of the war game clearly were intended to lend credibility to the Bush administration's public alarm at the swarming tactics. It raises the issue of why the U.S. warships didn't open fire, given that the war game must have resulted in some very aggressive rules of engagement against Iranian speedboats in the Strait of Hormuz. But more important, it reveals something about the administration's thinking in the context of Bush's trip to the region and the controversial National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear program.


A huge controversy has emerged over the NIE, with many arguing that it was foisted on the administration against its will. Our readers know that this was not our view, and it is still not our view. Bush's statements on the NIE were consistent. First, he did not take issue with it. Second, he continues to regard Iran as a threat. In traveling to the Middle East, one of his purposes is to create a stronger anti-Iranian coalition among the Arab states on the Arabian Peninsula. The nuclear threat was not a sufficient glue to create this coalition. For a host of reasons ranging from U.S. intelligence failures in Iraq to the time frame of an Iranian nuclear threat, a nuclear program was simply not seen as a credible basis for fearing Iran's actions in the region. The states of the Arabian Peninsula were much more afraid of U.S. attacks against Iran than they were of Iranian nuke s in five or 10 years.


The Strait of Hormuz is another matter. Approximately 40 percent of the region's oil wealth flows through the strait. During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, the tanker war, in which oil tankers moving through the Persian Gulf came under attack from aircraft, provided a sideshow. This not only threatened the flow of oil but also drove shipping insurance rates through the roof. The United States convoyed tankers, but the tanker war remains a frightening memory in the region.


The tanker war was trivial compared with the threat the United States rolled out last week. The Strait of Hormuz is the chokepoint through which Persian Gulf oil flows. Close the strait and it doesn't flow. With oil near $100 a barrel, closing the Strait of Hormuz would raise the price — an understatement of the highest order. We have no idea what the price of oil would be if the strait were closed. Worse, the countries shipping through the strait would not get any of that money. At $100 a barrel, closing the Strait of Hormuz would take an economic triumph and turn it into a disaster for the very countries the United States wants to weld into an effective anti-Iranian coalition.


The revelation of a naval threat from Iran in the Strait of Hormuz just before the president got on board Air Force One for his trip to the region was fortuitous, to say the least. The Iranians insisted that there was nothing unusual about the incident, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said that "Some political factions in the U.S. are pursuing adventurism to help Bush to spread Iran-phobia in the region. U.S. officials should apologize to Iran, regional countries and the American people." This probably won't happen, but he undoubtedly will be grateful that the Iranians said there was nothing out of the ordinary about the incident. If this incident was routine, and if the U.S. war games have any predictive ability, it means that the Iranians are staging routine incidents, any one of which could lead to a military confrontation in the strait. Bush undoubtedly will be distributing the Iranian statement at each of his stops.


Leaving aside the politics for a moment, the Iranian naval threat is a far more realistic, immediate and devastating threat to regional interests than the nuclear threat ever was. Building an atomic weapon was probably beyond Iran's capabilities, while just building a device — an unwieldy and delicate system that would explode under controlled circumstances — was years away. In contrast, the naval threat in the Strait of Hormuz is within Iran's reach right now. Success is far from a slam dunk considering the clear preponderance of power in favor of U.S. naval forces, but it is not a fantasy strategy by any means.


And its consequences are immediate and affect the Islamic states in ways that a nuclear strike against Israel doesn't. Getting the Saudis to stand against Iran over an attack against Israel is a reach, regardless of the threat. Getting the Saudis worked up over cash flow while oil prices are near all-time highs does not need a great deal of persuading. Whatever happened in the strait Jan. 6, Bush has arrived in the region with a theme of widespread regional interest: keeping the Strait of Hormuz open in the face of a real threat. We are not certain that a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier could be sunk using small swarming ships. But we are certain that the strait could be closed or made too dangerous for tankers for at least a short period. And we know that, as in land warfare, finding the bases that are launching ships as small as speedboats would be tough. This threat had substance.


By dropping the Iranian nuclear threat and shifting to the threat to the strait, Bush moves the Iran issue from being one involving the United States and Israel to being one that excludes Israel but involves every oil producer in the region. None of them wants this to happen, and all of them must take the threat seriously. If it can establish the threat, the United States goes from being an advocate against Iran to being the guarantor of very real Arab interests. And if the price Arabs must pay for the United States to keep the strait open is helping shut down the jihadist threat in Iraq, that is a small price indeed.


This puts Iran in a tough position. Prior to the issuance of the NIE, the Iranians had shifted some of their policies on Iraq. The decline in violence in Iraq is partly because of the surge, but it also is because Iran has cut back on some of the things it used to do, particularly supporting Shiite militias with weapons and money and urging them to attack Sunnis. It also is clear that the limits it had imposed on some of the Iraqi Shiite politicians in the latter's dealings with their Sunni counterparts have shifted. The new law allowing Baath Party members to return to public life could not possibly have been passed without Iranian acquiescence.


Clearly, Iran has changed its actions in Iraq as the United States has changed its stance on Iranian nuclear weapons. But Iran shied away from reaching an open accommodation with the United States over Iraq following the NIE. Factional splits in Iran are opening up as elections approach, and while the Iranians have shifted their behavior, they have not shifted their public position. The United States sees a shift of Iran's public position as crucial in order to convince Iraqi factions, particularly all of the Shiite parties, to move toward a political conclusion. Reining in militias is great, but Washington wants and needs the final step. The NIE shift, which took the nuclear issue off the table, was not enough to do it. By raising the level of tension over a real threat — and one that has undebatable regional consequences — the United States is hoping to shape the internal political discussion in Iran toward an open participation in reshaping Iraq.


Iran doesn't want to take this step for three good reasons. First, it wants to keep its options open. It does not trust the United States not to use a public accord over Iraq as a platform to increase U.S. influence in Iraq and increase the threat to Iran. Second, Tehran has a domestic political problem. In the same way that Bush saw an avalanche of protest from his supporters over the NIE, the Iranians will see resistance to open collaboration. Finally, the Iranians are not sure they need a public agreement. From their point of view, they have delivered on Iraq, the United States has delivered on the NIE and things are moving in a satisfactory direction. Why go public? The American desire to show the Iraqi Shia that Iran has publicly abandoned the quest for a Shiite Iraq doesn't do Iran a bit of good.


The Iranians have used the construction of what we might call a guerrilla navy as a lever with the United States and as a means to divide the United States from the Arabs. The Iranians' argument to the Arabs has been, "If the United States pushes us too far, we will close the strait. Therefore, keep the Americans from pushing us too far." The Americans have responded by saying that the Iranians now have the ability to close the Strait of Hormuz, potentially regardless of what the U.S. Navy does. Therefore, unless the Arabs want to be at the mercy of Iran, they must join the United States in an anti-Iranian coalition that brings Iran under control. In its wooing of the Arabs, Washington will emphasize just how out of control the Iranians are, pointing out that Tehran is admitting that the kind of harassment seen Jan. 6 is routine. One day — and the day will be chosen by Iran — this will all get really out of hand.


The Iranians have a great deal to gain from having the ability to close the strait, but very little from actually closing it. The United States is putting Iran in a position such that the Gulf Arabs will be asking Tehran for assurances that Iran will not take any action. The Iranians will give assurances, setting the stage for a regional demand that the Iranians disperse their speedboats, which are purely offensive weapons of little defensive purpose.


The United States, having simplified the situation for the Iranians with the NIE and not gotten the response it wanted, now is complicating the situation again with a completely new framework — a much more effective framework than the previous one it used.


In the end, this isn't about the Strait of Hormuz. Iran isn't going to take on the U.S. Navy, and the Navy isn't quite as vulnerable as it claims — and therefore, the United States obviously is not nearly as trigger-happy as it would like to project. Washington has played a strong card. The issue now is whether it can get Iran into a public resolution over Iraq.


The Iranians appear on board with the private solution. They don't seem eager for a public one. The anti-Iranian coalition might strengthen, but as clever as this U.S. maneuver is, it will not bring the Iranians public. For that, more concessions in Iraq are necessary. More to the point, for a public accommodation, the "Great Satan" and the charter member of the "Axis of Evil" need to make political adjustments in their public portrayal of one another — hard to do in two countries facing election years.

Title: Podhoretz: Stopping Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 22, 2008, 05:57:05 PM
The political will here in the US for this would seem to be near zero, and if I read the tea leaves correctly, not a lot more than that in the US military , , ,  Still, what to do?

Stopping Iran
Why the case for military action still stands.
January 23, 2008

Up until a fairly short time ago, scarcely anyone dissented from the assessment offered with "high confidence" by the National Intelligence Estimate of 2005 that Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons." Correlatively, no one believed the protestations of the mullahs ruling Iran that their nuclear program was designed strictly for peaceful uses.

The reason for this near-universal consensus was that Iran, with its vast reserves of oil and natural gas, had no need for nuclear energy, and that in any case, the very nature of its program contradicted the protestations.

Here is how Time magazine put it as early as March 2003--long before, be it noted, the radical Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had replaced the putatively moderate Mohamed Khatami as president:

On a visit last month to Tehran, International Atomic Energy Agency director Mohamed ElBaradei announced he had discovered that Iran was constructing a facility to enrich uranium--a key component of advanced nuclear weapons--near Natanz. But diplomatic sources tell Time the plant is much further along than previously revealed. The sources say work on the plant is "extremely advanced" and involves "hundreds" of gas centrifuges ready to produce enriched uranium and "the parts for a thousand others ready to be assembled."
So, too, the Federation of American Scientists about a year later:

It is generally believed that Iran's efforts are focused on uranium enrichment, though there are some indications of work on a parallel plutonium effort. Iran claims it is trying to establish a complete nuclear-fuel cycle to support a civilian energy program, but this same fuel cycle would be applicable to a nuclear-weapons development program. Iran appears to have spread their nuclear activities around a number of sites to reduce the risk of detection or attack.
And just as everyone agreed with the American intelligence community that Iran was "determined to develop nuclear weapons," everyone also agreed with President Bush that it must not be permitted to succeed. Here, the reasons were many and various.

To begin with, Iran was (as certified even by the doves of the State Department) the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world, and it was therefore reasonable to fear that it would transfer nuclear technology to terrorists who would be only too happy to use it against us. Moreover, since Iran evidently aspired to become the hegemon of the Middle East, its drive for a nuclear capability could result (as, according to the New York Times, no fewer than 21 governments in and around the region were warning) in "a grave and destructive nuclear-arms race." This meant a nightmarish increase in the chances of a nuclear war. An even greater increase in those chances would result from the power that nuclear weapons--and the missiles capable of delivering them, which Iran was also developing and/or buying--would give the mullahs to realize their evil dream of (in the words of Mr. Ahmadinejad) "wiping Israel off the map."

Nor, as almost everyone also agreed, were the dangers of a nuclear Iran confined to the Middle East. Dedicated as the mullahs clearly were to furthering the transformation of Europe into a continent where Muslim law and practice would more and more prevail, they were bound to use nuclear intimidation and blackmail in pursuit of this goal as well. Beyond that, nuclear weapons would even serve the purposes of a far more ambitious aim: the creation of what Mr. Ahmadinejad called "a world without America." Although, to be sure, no one imagined that Iran would acquire the capability to destroy the United States, it was easy to imagine that the United States would be deterred from standing in Iran's way by the fear of triggering a nuclear war.

Running alongside the near-universal consensus on Iran's nuclear intentions was a commensurately broad agreement that the regime could be stopped from realizing those intentions by a judicious combination of carrots and sticks. The carrots, offered through diplomacy, consisted of promises that if Iran were (in the words of the Security Council) to "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA," it would find itself on the receiving end of many benefits. If, however, Iran remained obdurate in refusing to comply with these demands, sticks would come into play in the form of sanctions.

And indeed, in response to continued Iranian defiance, a round of sanctions was approved by the Security Council in December 2006. When these (watered down to buy the support of the Russians and the Chinese) predictably failed to bite, a tougher round was unanimously authorized three months later, in March 2007. When these in turn failed, the United States, realizing that the Russians and the Chinese would veto stronger medicine, unilaterally imposed a new series of economic sanctions--which fared no better than the multilateral measures that had preceded them.

* * *

What then to do? President Bush kept declaring that Iran must not be permitted to get the bomb, and he kept warning that the "military option"--by which he meant air strikes, not an invasion on the ground--was still on the table as a last resort. On this issue our Western European allies were divided. To the surprise of many who had ceased thinking of France as an ally because of Jacques Chirac's relentless opposition to the policies of the Bush administration, Nicholas Sarkozy, Mr. Chirac's successor as president, echoed Mr. Bush's warning in equally unequivocal terms. If, Mr. Sarkozy announced, the Iranians pressed on with their nuclear program, the world would be left with a choice between "an Iranian bomb and bombing Iran"--and he left no doubt as to where his own choice would fall. On the other hand, Gordon Brown, who had followed Tony Blair as prime minister of the U.K., seemed less willing than Mr. Sarkozy to contemplate military action against Iran's nuclear installations, even as a last resort. Like the new chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, Mr. Brown remained--or professed to remain--persuaded that more diplomacy and tougher sanctions would eventually work.

This left a great question hanging in the air: when, if ever, would Mr. Bush (and/or Mr. Sarkozy) conclude that the time had come to resort to the last resort?

Obviously the answer to that question depended on how long it would take for Iran itself to reach the point of no return. According to the NIE of 2005, it was "unlikely . . . that Iran would be able to make a nuclear weapon . . . before early-to-mid next decade"--that is, between 2010 and 2015. If that assessment, offered with "moderate confidence," was correct, Mr. Bush would be off the hook, since he would be out of office for two years at the very least by the time the decision on whether or not to order air strikes would have to be made. That being the case, for the remainder of his term he could continue along the carrot-and-stick path, while striving to ratchet up the pressure on Iran with stronger and stronger measures that he could hope against hope might finally do the trick. If he could get these through the Security Council, so much the better; if not, the United States could try to assemble a coalition outside the U.N. that would be willing to impose really tough sanctions.

Under these circumstances, there would also be enough time to add another arrow to this nonmilitary quiver: a serious program of covert aid to dissident Iranians who dreamed of overthrowing the mullocracy and replacing it with a democratic regime. Those who had been urging Mr. Bush to launch such a program, and who were confident that it would succeed, pointed to polls showing great dissatisfaction with the mullocracy among the Iranian young, and to the demonstrations against it that kept breaking out all over the country. They also contended that even if a new democratic regime were to be as intent as the old one on developing nuclear weapons, neither it nor they would pose anything like the same kind of threat.

All well and good. The trouble was this: only by relying on the accuracy of the 2005 NIE would Mr. Bush be able in all good conscience to pass on to his successor the decision of whether or when to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities. But that estimate, as he could hardly help knowing from the CIA's not exactly brilliant track record, might easily be too optimistic.

To start with the most spectacular recent instance, the CIA had failed to anticipate 9/11. It then turned out to be wrong in 2002 about Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction, very likely because it was bending over backward to compensate for having been wrong in exactly the opposite direction in 1991, when at the end of the first Gulf war the IAEA discovered that the Iraqi nuclear program was far more advanced than the CIA had estimated. Regarding that by now notorious lapse, Jeffrey T. Richelson, a leading (and devoutly nonpartisan) authority on the American intelligence community, writes in "Spying on the Bomb":

The extent that the United States and its allies underestimated and misunderstood the Iraqi program [before 1991] constituted a "colossal international intelligence failure," according to one Israeli expert. [IAEA's chief weapons inspector] Hans Blix acknowledged "that there was suspicion certainly," but "to see the enormity of it is a shock."
And these were only the most recent cases. Gabriel Schoenfeld, a close student of the intelligence community, offers a partial list of earlier mistakes and failures:

The CIA was established in 1947 in large measure to avoid another surprise attack like the one the U.S. had suffered on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. But only three years after its founding, the fledgling agency missed the outbreak of the Korean war. It then failed to understand that the Chinese would come to the aid of the North Koreans if American forces crossed the Yalu river. It missed the outbreak of the Suez war in 1956. In September 1962, the CIA issued an NIE which stated that the "Soviets would not introduce offensive missiles in Cuba"; in short order, the USSR did precisely that. In 1968 it failed to foresee the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. . . . It did not inform Jimmy Carter that the Soviet Union would invade Afghanistan in 1979.
Mr. Richelson adds a few more examples of hotly debated issues during the cold war that were wrongly resolved, including "the existence of a missile gap, the capabilities of the Soviet SS-9 intercontinental ballistic missile, [and] Soviet compliance with the test-ban and antiballistic missile treaties." This is not to mention perhaps the most notorious case of all: the fiasco, known as the Bay of Pigs, produced by the CIA's wildly misplaced confidence that an invasion of Cuba by the army of exiles it had assembled and trained would set off a popular uprising against the Castro regime.

On Mr. Bush's part, then, deep skepticism was warranted concerning the CIA's estimate of how much time we had before Iran reached the point of no return. As we have seen, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the IAEA, had "discovered" in 2003 that the Iranians were constructing facilities to enrich uranium. Still, as late as April 2007 the same Mr. ElBaradei was pooh-poohing the claims made by Mr. Ahmadinejad that Iran already had 3,000 centrifuges in operation. A month later, we learn from Mr. Richelson, Mr. ElBaradei changed his mind after a few spot inspections. "We believe," Mr. ElBaradei now said, that the Iranians "pretty much have the knowledge about how to enrich. From now on, it is simply a question of perfecting that knowledge."

We also learn from Mr. Richelson that another expert, Matthew Bunn of Harvard's Center for Science and International Affairs, interpreted the new information the IAEA came up with in April 2007 as meaning that "whether they're six months or a year away, one can debate. But it's not 10 years." This chilling estimate of how little time we had to prevent Iran from getting the bomb was similar to the conclusion reached by several Israeli experts (though the official Israeli estimate put the point of no return in 2009).

* * *

Then, in a trice, everything changed. Even as Mr. Bush must surely have been wrestling with the question of whether it would be on his watch that the decision on bombing the Iranian nuclear facilities would have to be made, the world was hit with a different kind of bomb. This took the form of an unclassified summary of a new NIE, published early last December. Entitled "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities," this new document was obviously designed to blow up the near-universal consensus that had flowed from the conclusions reached by the intelligence community in its 2005 NIE. In brief, whereas the NIE of 2005 had assessed "with high confidence that Iran currently is determined to develop nuclear weapons," the new NIE of 2007 did "not know whether [Iran] currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."

This startling 180-degree turn was arrived at from new intelligence, offered by the new NIE with "high confidence": namely, that "in fall 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear-weapons program." The new NIE was also confident--though only moderately so--that "Tehran had not restarted its nuclear-weapons program as of mid-2007." And in the most sweeping of its new conclusions, it was even "moderately confident" that "the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear-weapons program."

Whatever else one might say about the new NIE, one point can be made with "high confidence": that by leading with the sensational news that Iran had suspended its nuclear-weapons program in 2003, its authors ensured that their entire document would be interpreted as meaning that there was no longer anything to worry about. Of course, being experienced bureaucrats, they took care to protect themselves from this very accusation. For example, after dropping their own bomb on the fear that Iran was hell-bent on getting the bomb, they immediately added "with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons." But as they must have expected, scarcely anyone paid attention to this caveat. And as they must also have expected, even less attention was paid to another self-protective caveat, which--making doubly sure it would pass unnoticed--they relegated to a footnote appended to the lead sentence about the halt:

For the purposes of this Estimate, by "nuclear-weapons program" we mean Iran's nuclear-weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work; we do not mean Iran's declared civil work related to uranium conversion and enrichment.
Since only an expert could grasp the significance of this cunning little masterpiece of incomprehensible jargon, the damage had been done by the time its dishonesty was exposed.

The first such exposure came from John Bolton, who before becoming our ambassador to the U.N. had served as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, with a special responsibility for preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Donning this hat once again, Mr. Bolton charged that the dishonesty of the footnote lay most egregiously in the sharp distinction it drew between military and civilian programs. For, he said, "the enrichment of uranium, which all agree Iran is continuing, is critical to civilian and military uses. Indeed, it has always been Iran's 'civilian' program that posed the main risk of a nuclear 'breakout.' "

Two other experts, Valerie Lincy, the editor of, and Gary Milhollin, the director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, followed up with an explanation of why the halt of 2003 was much less significant than a layman would inevitably be led to think:

Title: Podhoretz-2
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 22, 2008, 06:00:51 PM
Two other experts, Valerie Lincy, the editor of, and Gary Milhollin, the director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, followed up with an explanation of why the halt of 2003 was much less significant than a layman would inevitably be led to think:

The new report defines "nuclear-weapons program" in a ludicrously narrow way: it confines it to enriching uranium at secret sites or working on a nuclear-weapon design. But the halting of its secret enrichment and weapon-design efforts in 2003 proves only that Iran made a tactical move. It suspended work that, if discovered, would unambiguously reveal intent to build a weapon. It has continued other work, crucial to the ability to make a bomb, that it can pass off as having civilian applications.
Thus, as Ms. Lincy and Mr. Milhollin went on to write, the main point obfuscated by the footnote was that once Iran accumulated a stockpile of the kind of uranium fit for civilian use, it would "in a matter of months" be able "to convert that uranium . . . to weapons grade."

* * *

Yet, in spite of these efforts to demonstrate that the new NIE did not prove that Iran had given up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, just about everyone in the world immediately concluded otherwise, and further concluded that this meant the military option was off the table. George Bush may or may not have been planning to order air strikes before leaving office, but now that the justification for doing so had been discredited by his own intelligence agencies, it would be politically impossible for him to go on threatening military action, let alone to take it.

But what about sanctions? In the weeks and months before the new NIE was made public, Mr. Bush had been working very hard to get a third and tougher round of sanctions approved by the Security Council. In trying to persuade the Russians and the Chinese to sign on, Mr. Bush argued that the failure to enact such sanctions would leave war as the only alternative. Yet if war was now out of the question, and if in any case Iran had for all practical purposes given up its pursuit of nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future, what need was there of sanctions?

Anticipating that this objection would be raised, the White House desperately set out to interpret the new NIE as, precisely, offering "grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically--without the use of force." These words by Stephen Hadley, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, represented the very first comment on the new NIE to emanate from the White House, and some version of them would be endlessly repeated in the days to come.

Joining this campaign of damage control, Messrs. Sarkozy and Brown issued similar statements, and even Ms. Merkel (who had been very reluctant to go along with Mr. Bush's push for another round of sanctions) now declared that it was "dangerous and still grounds for great concern that Iran, in the face of the UN Security Council's resolutions, continues to refuse to suspend uranium enrichment. . . . The Iranian president's intolerable agitation against Israel also speaks volumes. . . . It remains a vital interest of the whole world community to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. "

As it happened, Mr. Hadley was right about the new NIE, which executed another 180-degree turn--this one, away from the judgment of the 2005 NIE concerning the ineffectiveness of international pressure. Flatly contradicting its "high confidence" in 2005 that Iran was forging ahead "despite its international obligations and international pressure," the new NIE concluded that the nuclear-weapons program had been halted in 2003 "primarily in response to international pressure." This indicated that "Tehran's decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs."

Never mind that no international pressure to speak of was being exerted on Iran in 2003, and that at that point the mullahs were more likely acting out of fear that the Americans, having just invaded Iraq, might come after them next. Never mind, too, that religious and/or ideological passions, which the new NIE pointedly neglected to mention, have over and over again throughout history proved themselves a more powerful driving force than any "cost-benefit approach." Blithely sweeping aside such considerations, the new NIE was confident that just as the carrot-and-stick approach had allegedly sufficed in the past, so it would suffice in the future to "prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear-weapons program."

The worldview implicit here has been described by Mr. Richelson (mainly with North Korea in mind) as the idea that "moral suasion and sustained bargaining are the proven mechanisms of nuclear restraint." Such a worldview "may be ill-equipped," he observes delicately, "to accept the idea that certain regimes are incorrigible and negotiate only as a stalling tactic until they have attained a nuclear capability against the United States and other nations that might act against their nuclear programs."

True, the new NIE did at least acknowledge that it would not be easy to induce Iran to extend the halt, "given the linkage many within the leadership probably see between nuclear-weapons development and Iran's key national-security and foreign-policy objectives." But it still put its money on a "combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways."

It was this pronouncement, and a few others like it, that gave Stephen Hadley "grounds for hope that the problem can be solved diplomatically." But that it was a false hope was demonstrated by the NIE itself. For if Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons in order to achieve its "key national-security and foreign-policy objectives," and if those objectives explicitly included (for a start) hegemony in the Middle East and the destruction of the state of Israel, what possible "opportunities" could Tehran be offered to achieve them "in other ways"?

* * *

So much for the carrot. As for the stick, it was no longer big enough to matter, what with the threat of military action ruled out, and what with the case for a third round of sanctions undermined by the impression stemming from the NIE's main finding that there was nothing left to worry about. Why worry when it was four years since Iran had done any work toward developing the bomb, when the moratorium remained in effect, and when there was no reason to believe that the program would be resumed in the near future?

What is more, in continuing to insist that the Iranians must be stopped from developing the bomb and that this could be done by nonmilitary means, the Bush administration and its European allies were lagging behind a new consensus within the American foreign-policy establishment that had already been forming even before the publication of the new NIE. Whereas the old consensus was based on the proposition that (in Sen. John McCain's pungent formulation) "the only thing worse than bombing Iran was letting Iran get the bomb," the emerging new consensus held the opposite--that the only thing worse than letting Iran get the bomb was bombing Iran.

What led to this reversal was a gradual loss of faith in the carrot-and-stick approach. As one who had long since rejected this faith and who had been excoriated for my apostasy by more than one member of the foreign-policy elites, I never thought I would live to see the day when these very elites would come to admit that diplomacy and sanctions had been given a fair chance and that they had accomplished nothing but to buy Iran more time. The lesson drawn from this new revelation was, however, a different matter.

It was in the course of a public debate with one of the younger members of the foreign-policy establishment that I first chanced upon the change in view. Knowing that he never deviated by so much as an inch from the conventional wisdom of the moment within places like the Council on Foreign Relations and the Brookings Institution, I had expected him to defend the carrot-and-stick approach and to attack me as a warmonger for contending that bombing was the only way to stop the mullahs from getting the bomb. Instead, to my great surprise, he took the position that there was really no need to stop them in the first place, since even if they had the bomb they could be deterred from using it, just as effectively as the Soviets and the Chinese had been deterred during the cold war.

Without saying so in so many words, then, my opponent was acknowledging that diplomacy and sanctions had proved to be a failure, and that there was no point in pursuing them any further. But so as to avoid drawing the logical conclusion--namely, that military action had now become necessary--he simply abandoned the old establishment assumption that Iran must at all costs be prevented from developing nuclear weapons, adopting in its place the complacent idea that we could learn to live with an Iranian bomb.

In response, I argued that deterrence could not be relied upon with a regime ruled by Islamo-fascist revolutionaries who not only were ready to die for their beliefs but cared less about protecting their people than about the spread of their ideology and their power. If the mullahs got the bomb, I said, it was not they who would be deterred, but we.

So little did any of this shake my opponent that I came away from our debate with the grim realization that the president's continued insistence on the dangers posed by an Iranian bomb would more and more fall on deaf ears--ears that would soon be made even deafer by the new NIE's assurance that Iran was no longer hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons after all. There might be two different ideas competing here--one, that we could live with an Iranian bomb; the other, that there would be no Iranian bomb to live with--but the widespread acceptance of either would not only preclude the military option but would sooner or later put an end even to the effort to stop the mullahs by nonmilitary means.

* * *

And yet there remained something else, or rather someone else, to factor into the equation: the perennially "misunderestimated" George W. Bush, a man who knew evil when he saw it and who had the courage and the determination to do battle against it. This was also a man who, far more than most politicians, said what he meant and meant what he said. And what he had said at least twice before was that if we permitted Iran to build a nuclear arsenal, people 50 years from now would look back and wonder how we of this generation could have allowed such a thing to happen, and they would rightly judge us as harshly as we today judge the British and the French for what they did at Munich in 1938. It was because I had found it hard to understand why Mr. Bush would put himself so squarely in the dock of history on this issue if he were resigned to an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons, or even of the ability to build them, that I predicted in the pages of Commentary, and went on predicting elsewhere, that he would not retire from office before resorting to the military option.
Title: Podhoretz 3
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 22, 2008, 06:01:55 PM

But I could not for the life of me believe that Mr. Bush intended to fly in the face of the solemn promise he had made in his 2002 State of the Union address:

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.
To which he had added shortly afterward in a speech at West Point: "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long."

How, I wondered, could Mr. Bush not know that in the case of Iran he was running a very great risk of waiting too long? And if he was truly ready to run that risk, why, in a press conference the day after the new NIE came out, did he put himself in the historical dock yet again by repeating what he had said several times before about the judgment that would be passed on this generation in the future if Iran were to acquire a nuclear weapon?

If Iran shows up with a nuclear weapon at some point in time, the world is going to say, what happened to them in 2007? How come they couldn't see the impending danger? What caused them not to understand that a country that once had a weapons program could reconstitute the weapons program? How come they couldn't see that the important first step in developing a weapon is the capacity to be able to enrich uranium? How come they didn't know that with that capacity, that knowledge could be passed on to a covert program? What blinded them to the realities of the world? And it's not going to happen on my watch.
* * *

"It's not going to happen on my watch." What else could this mean if not that Mr. Bush was preparing to meet "the impending danger" in what he must by now have concluded was the only way it could be averted?

The only alternative that seemed even remotely plausible to me was that he might be fixing to outsource the job to the Israelis. After all, even if, by now, it might have become politically impossible for us to take military action, the Israelis could not afford to sit by while a regime pledged to wipe them off the map was equipping itself with nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. For unless Iran could be stopped before acquiring a nuclear capability, the Israelis would be faced with only two choices: either strike first, or pray that the fear of retaliation would deter the Iranians from beating them to the punch. Yet a former president of Iran, Hashemi Rafsanjani, had served notice that his country would not be deterred by the fear of retaliation:

If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in its possession, . . . application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.
If this was the view of even a supposed moderate like Mr. Rafsanjani, how could the Israelis depend upon the mullahs to refrain from launching a first strike? The answer was that they could not. Bernard Lewis, the leading contemporary authority on the culture of the Islamic world, has explained why:

MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the cold war. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic [like Mr. Ahmadinejad]. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that [the mullahs ruling Iran] do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again. In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights.
Under the aegis of such an attitude, even in the less extreme variant that may have been held by some of Mr. Ahmadinejad's colleagues among the regime's rulers, mutual assured destruction would turn into a very weak reed. Understanding that, the Israelis would be presented with an irresistible incentive to preempt--and so, too, would the Iranians. Either way, a nuclear exchange would become inevitable.

What would happen then? In a recently released study, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that Mr. Rafsanjani had it wrong. In the grisly scenario Mr. Cordesman draws, tens of millions would indeed die, but Israel--despite the decimation of its civilian population and the destruction of its major cities--would survive, even if just barely, as a functioning society. Not so Iran, and not its "key Arab neighbors," particularly Egypt and Syria, which Mr. Cordesman thinks Israel would also have to target in order "to ensure that no other power can capitalize on an Iranian strike." Furthermore, Israel might be driven in desperation to go after the oil wells, refineries, and ports in the Gulf.

"Being contained within the region," writes Martin Walker of UPI in his summary of Mr. Cordesman's study, "such a nuclear exchange might not be Armageddon for the human race." To me it seems doubtful that it could be confined to the Middle East. But even if it were, the resulting horrors would still be far greater than even the direst consequences that might follow from bombing Iran before it reaches the point of no return.

In the worst case of this latter scenario, Iran would retaliate by increasing the trouble it is already making for us in Iraq and by attacking Israel with missiles armed with non-nuclear warheads but possibly containing biological and/or chemical weapons. There would also be a vast increase in the price of oil, with catastrophic consequences for every economy in the world, very much including our own. And there would be a deafening outcry from one end of the earth to the other against the inescapable civilian casualties. Yet, bad as all this would be, it does not begin to compare with the gruesome consequences of a nuclear exchange between Israel and Iran, even if those consequences were to be far less extensive than Mr. Cordesman anticipates.

Which is to say that, as between bombing Iran to prevent it from getting the bomb and letting Iran get the bomb, there is simply no contest.

* * *

But this still does not answer the question of who should do the bombing. Tempting as it must be for George Bush to sit back and let the Israelis do the job, there are considerations that should give him pause. One is that no matter what he would say, the whole world would regard the Israelis as a surrogate for the United States, and we would become as much the target of the ensuing recriminations both at home and abroad as we would if we had done the job ourselves.

To make matters worse, the indications are that it would be very hard for the Israeli air force, superb though it is, to pull the mission off. Thus, an analysis by two members of the Security Studies Program at MIT concluded that while "the Israeli air force now possesses the capability to destroy even well-hardened targets in Iran with some degree of confidence," the problem is that for the mission to succeed, all of the many contingencies involved would have to go right. Hence an Israeli attempt could end with the worst of all possible outcomes: retaliatory measures by the Iranians even as their nuclear program remained unscathed. We, on the other hand, would have a much bigger margin of error and a much better chance of setting their program back by a minimum of five or 10 years and at best wiping it out altogether.

The upshot is that if Iran is to be prevented from becoming a nuclear power, it is the United States that will have to do the preventing, to do it by means of a bombing campaign, and (because "if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long") to do it soon.

When I first predicted a year or so ago that Mr. Bush would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities once he had played out the futile diplomatic string, the obstacles that stood in his way were great but they did not strike me as insurmountable. Now, thanks in large part to the new NIE, they have grown so formidable that I can only stick by my prediction with what the NIE itself would describe as "low-to-moderate confidence." For Mr. Bush is right about the resemblance between 2008 and 1938. In 1938, as Winston Churchill later said, Hitler could still have been stopped at a relatively low price and many millions of lives could have been saved if England and France had not deceived themselves about the realities of their situation. Mutatis mutandis, it is the same in 2008, when Iran can still be stopped from getting the bomb and even more millions of lives can be saved--but only provided that we summon up the courage to see what is staring us in the face and then act on what we see.

Unless we do, the forces that are blindly working to ensure that Iran will get the bomb are likely to prevail even against the clear-sighted determination of George W. Bush, just as the forces of appeasement did against Churchill in 1938. In which case, we had all better pray that there will be enough time for the next President to discharge the responsibility that Mr. Bush will have been forced to pass on, and that this successor will also have the clarity and the courage to discharge it. If not--God help us all--the stage will have been set for the outbreak of a nuclear war that will become as inescapable then as it is avoidable now.

Mr. Podhoretz is the editor-at-large of Commentary and author of "World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism" (Doubleday, 2007).
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 09, 2008, 05:30:31 AM
NY Times: Caveat Lector
MADRASA kojast?” Where is the religious school?
Leaving my hotel on the tree-shaded boulevard of Chahar Bagh Abbasi in Esfahan, Iran, I had ducked down a small lane just south of Takhti Junction, made a couple of turns, and gotten lost. I was trying to follow a seven-mile walking route recorded in my Lonely Planet guidebook — and nowhere else, it seemed, not on signs or on any local map — and wandered into a maze of alleys flanked by tawny walls.

A man repairing a motorcycle in a small garage smiled and gave me directions. “Madrasa,” he said, pointing to the right.

If you’re going to get lost, Esfahan (also spelled Isfahan), a city of 1.3 million about 200 miles south of Tehran in central Iran, is an extraordinary place to do it. There’s a centuries-old saying that Esfahan is “half the world,” meaning it contains fully half of the earth’s wonders.

Jean Chardin, a 17th-century French traveler, wrote that Esfahan “was expressly made for the delights of love”; in the 1930s, the British travel writer Robert Byron rated it “among those rarer places, like Athens or Rome, which are the common refreshment of humanity.”

I had arrived in Iran two weeks earlier, last May, considerably less venturesome and more anxious. “Excuse me, ma’am,” I sputtered in phrase book Farsi to the first person I met — a bearded soldier.

I knew only the news-report version of Iran: renegade developer of nuclear technology, member of the Axis of Evil, and mortal enemy of the Great Satan, the United States. I was hoping to learn what the country was actually like; I wanted to know how it would feel to be an American in Iran.

“Where are you from?” a German tourist asked on my first day in Tehran.

When I said, “The United States,” her eyes bulged. “Ssssh, I won’t tell,” she said.

Tehran didn’t dispel negative stereotypes, at least not at first. Braving streets jammed with pollution-spewing motorcycles and Paykan sedans, I walked under the watchful eye of my Iranian guide, who said that it would be dangerous for me to leave his sight. We passed a billboard showing the glaring visage of the Ayatollah Khomeini and reached the former United States Embassy. Site of C.I.A. plotting — including for the 1953 coup that installed the Shah — and of the 1979-81 hostage crisis, the compound is now a museum and historical site known as the Den of U.S. Espionage.

I walked past a painted slogan in rough English — “United States of America Ghods Occupier Regime Is the Most Hated State Before Our Nation”— and another that read “Down With USA.” A young man stood smiling in front of it. I snapped a photo; discreetly, or so I thought, but he ran down the sidewalk after me.

“I don’t hate America,” he said plaintively. “I love America.”

Nearly three decades after the Islamic Revolution, Iran is undergoing a quieter transformation, this one in tourism. Last July, a government official announced a worldwide campaign to boost tourism, with new tourist offices to be opened in 20 countries.

This closely followed the news that Iran would offer cash bonuses to travel agents who can attract certain categories of tourists, especially those from Europe and America. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, probably hoping to convey peaceful intentions, has even announced that foreign tourists will soon be able to visit the country’s controversial nuclear sites.

This charm offensive hasn’t translated yet to an easy process for Americans hoping to visit. Independent travel is all but impossible — you need a host, typically a commercial outfitter — and the wait for a visa often lasts several months. I traveled with the photographer Greg Von Doersten, and despite the fact that he made arrangements well in advance with a company called Iranian Mountain Guides, he was forced to travel to the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, which handles Iranian interests in America, on the morning of our flight to pick up our visas. He barely made it back to New York in time for our evening departure.

Iran has sprawling pre-Islamic ruins, mosques glittering with kaleidoscopic mosaics of tile, and cities that present both a stern theocratic face and a glitzier Western one set to a ring-tone soundtrack. Its deserts are vaster than those of the American Southwest, its mountains higher than the Rockies.

Our itinerary would take us from Tehran to the highest summit in the Middle East, 18,606-foot Mount Damavand, to Persepolis, the 2,500-year-old masterpiece of the Achaemenids, the first Persian Empire. The highlight of the entire trip, though, was the long walk I took in Esfahan.

After following the motorcycle mechanic’s directions, I stood before a set of hulking wooden doors with peeling paint and dangling chains. This was the entrance to the Madrasa-ye Nimurvand, a small school known for being friendly to foreign visitors.

Robed students with books under their arms crossed the leafy interior courtyard; there was a low murmuring of voices and pleasant chirping of birds. A mullah, his beard flecked with gray and his head wrapped in a white turban, walked by, and we wound up in an hourlong discussion through a translator.

The mullah, Abdullah Dehshan, didn’t shy away from asking meaty questions: Do you think Islam is violent? If you could have one wish for the world what would it be? Do you believe in God? Maybe, I said, but people often get in the way.


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Do we need priests, rabbis, mullahs? I asked him. Mullah Dehshan smiled at this theological softball. If you want to go to Shiraz, he said, you would need a car, a road and a map. It is difficult to reach a far-off destination without help. “And so it is with God,” he said.

Skip to next paragraph
Leaving the madrasa, I followed an alley to the northeastern edge of the Grand Bazaar Bazaar, one of the country’s largest. Built primarily in the 16th century, with some parts dating back to A.D. 700, the covered passages extended for miles and presented a maze even more convoluted than the alleyways that had preceded it.
The ceiling was high and vaulted. Star-shaped portals admitted spears of sunlight that cut through dusty air. Vendors and their wares were crammed into tiny stalls, selling spices, jeans, toiletries, soft-serve ice cream and cheap plastic toys. The atmosphere was souk meets 99-cent store.

Many booths, however, sold the very sort of handmade crafts that one would hope to find: ornate Persian carpets, many woven by nomadic peoples like the Turkmen and Lors; finely painted miniatures depicting hunting trips and polo matches; lacquered vases and bowls; and copper, silver and gold platters.

The passage ahead grew brighter. I passed through the Qeysarieh Portal, a faded but still colorful fresco overhead showing Shah Abbas I battling the Uzbeks. Esfahan owes much of its greatness to Abbas, who, after driving the Ottoman Turks out of Persia in the 16th century, began an architectural campaign to glorify his new capital city. Abbas’s verdant gardens, glittering palaces, grand ceremonial square, arched bridges and resplendent mosques still stand and are easily connected on a walking tour — one from a guidebook or, even better, one of your own invention.

I emerged from the portal onto a grand plaza under brilliant sunshine. Measuring 1,680 feet long by 535 feet wide — over 20 acres —Iman Square is one of the largest plazas in the world, and holds what is possibly the most stunning assemblage of Islamic architecture. A procession of arched bays enclosed a grassy esplanade and long reflecting pool.

At the far south end, twin minarets guarded the towering alcove entryway to Imam Mosque, which was capped by onion-shaped domes. To the right was Ali Qapu Palace. Six stories high, it had thin wooden columns supporting a roof over the elevated terrace, the royal vantage point for watching the polo matches that were played below hundreds of years ago. To the left was the broad, colorful cupola of Sheik Lotfollah Mosque, dedicated to Abbas’s father-in-law.

Trotting horses towed carriages. Families picnicked on the grass. If a traveler had any lingering doubts about the hospitality of Iranians toward Americans, this was the place to dispel them. Making a new friend required no more effort than standing still for 30 seconds.

I was approached first by a trio of giggling girls in black chadors. Next came an older man who invited me to have tea with three of his friends. Everyone wanted to know why I had come to Iran, and wondered what people back home thought of this undertaking. They had a pretty good idea about the answer.

“People think that we are all religious extremists with nuclear weapons and beards down to our stomachs,” said a carpet vendor named Vahid Mousavifard. “But Iran is actually very safe for tourists.”

Many people wanted to talk politics, though this, I knew, was to be done with caution. Members of the secret police are known to circulate in crowds, I was told by a guide; visitors have been detained for saying the wrong thing.

The people I met, as one might expect, weren’t big fans of President Bush. “You have troops in Afghanistan and troops in Iraq,” one young man said. “How long before you invade Iran?”

But I also heard comments that could have been scripted by Karl Rove.

“In Iran we have no wine, no music, no dancing, no disco, no loving,” said a ranting middle-age neuroscientist. “We want your government. We want your freedom.”

The Imam Mosque is the larger of the two at Imam Square; Sheik Lotfollah is the more beautiful. Its tiled dome was covered by twirling black-and-white vines and turquoise flowers, a design with the precision more of fine china than of monumental architecture. A high, honeycombed arch known as an aivan, decorated with Koranic inscriptions and complex arabesques, capped the entryway.

Inside, a cool, dim passage led to a prayer sanctuary beneath the dome. Light filtered in through screened windows, revealing glass and tile mosaics even more colorful and elaborate than those outside.

Iranians are proud of these 17th-century monuments, as they are of much of Persia’s history over the millennia. In the course of my travels, people complained more frequently and vigorously about the American movie “300,” which was perceived to portray ancient Persia in an unflattering light, than about any contemporary political issue.


In Shiraz, 225 miles south of Esfahan, I had met a young Iranian tour guide, Maziar Rahimi, who had just spent the day at Persepolis. “When I went there I saw how big we were back then and how small we are now,” he said.

He believed that there was great dissatisfaction with the current state of the country and that it was time to live up to the glories of the past.
“You see it everywhere,” he said. “The young women are wearing their scarves far back and more makeup. Change is coming.”

LATE one afternoon in Esfafahan, I strolled from Imam Square down to the Zayandeh River, which snakes through the heart of the city. Yet more of the legacy of Shah Abbas and his successors is on view there, a series of stunning old bridges spanning the broad, calm waterway. Following a path along the bank, I saw people spread out on blankets for picnic dinners, groups of laughing girls, even some couples boldly holding hands.

I reached the Si-o-Seh Bridge, the Bridge of 33 Arches. The sun was setting, and lights came on to fill each of the alcoves with a golden glow. Silhouetted figures gazed out from the portals.

Farther east, near the base of the Chubi Bridge, stood a small teahouse. The inside was packed with men sitting shoulder to shoulder smoking qalyans, or water pipes. Spotting the visitor, they squeezed even tighter to make room. A waiter brought tea, sugar and a qalyan. The smoke was sweet and rich; there was so much in the air that the people across the room were hazy.

The man on my right asked where I was from. “America,” I said.

The room got quieter. Everyone seemed to be looking my way. Then the man clapped my shoulder and smiled.

“Our governments are bad,” he said. “But the people are good.”
Title: US-Iranian Negotiations
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 12, 2008, 07:15:07 PM
The U.S.-Iranian Negotiations: Beyond the Rhetoric
February 12, 2008 | 1943 GMT
By George Friedman

Tehran has announced that Iran and the United States will hold a new round of talks on the future of Iraq at some point next week. The Iranians said that the “structure of the discussions have been finalized but the level of participation has not yet been agreed.” Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to visit Iraq before March 20, the Iranian New Year. The United States has not denied either of these reports. There thus appears to be some public movement occurring in the U.S.-Iranian talks over Iraq.

These talks are not new. This would be the fourth in a series of meetings; the most recent meeting happened last August. These meetings have been scheduled and canceled before, and because who will attend this go-round remains unsettled, these talks may never get off the ground. More significant, no Iranian president has visited Iraq since the Khomeini revolution. If this visit took place, it would represent a substantial evolution. It also is not something that would happen unopposed if the United States did not want it to; by contrast, the Iraqi government lacks much of a say in the matter because it does not have that much room for maneuver. So we can say this much: Nothing has happened yet, but the Iranians have repositioned themselves as favoring some sort of diplomatic initiative from their side and the Americans so far have not done anything to discourage them.

U.S.-Iranian negotiations are always opaque because they are ideologically difficult to justify by both sides. For Iran, the United States is the Great Satan. For the United States, Iran is part of the Axis of Evil. It is difficult for Iran to talk to the devil or for the United States to negotiate with evil. Therefore, U.S.-Iranian discussions always take place in a strange way. The public rhetoric between the countries is always poisonous. If you simply looked at what each country says about the other, you would assume that no discussions are possible. But if you treat the public rhetoric as simply designed to manage domestic public opinion, and then note the shifts in policy outside of the rhetorical context, a more complex picture emerges. Public and private talks have taken place, and more are planned. If you go beyond the talks to actions, things become even more interesting.

We have discussed this before, but it is important to understand the strategic interests of the two countries at this point to understand what is going on. Ever since the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq has been the buffer between the Iranians and the Arabian Peninsula. The United States expected to create a viable pro-American government quickly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and therefore expected that Iraq would continue to serve as a buffer. That did not happen for a number of reasons, and therefore the strategic situation has evolved.

The primary American interest in Iraq at this point is a negative one — namely, that Iraq not become an Iranian satellite. If that were to happen and Iranian forces entered Iraq, the entire balance of power in the Arabian Peninsula would collapse. Whatever the future of Iraq, U.S. policy since the surge and before has been to prevent a vacuum into which Iran can move. The primary Iranian interest in Iraq also is negative. Tehran must make sure that no Iraqi government is formed that is dominated by Sunnis, as happened under the Baathists, and that the Iraqi military never becomes powerful enough to represent an offensive threat to Iran. In other words, above all else, Iran’s interest is to avoid a repeat of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Obviously, each side has positive goals. The United States would love to see a powerful, pro-American Iraqi government that could threaten Iran on its own. The Iranians would love to see a pro-Iranian government in Baghdad and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Neither side is in a position to achieve these goals. The United States cannot create a pro-U.S. government because the Iranians, through their influence in the Shiite community, can create sufficient chaos to make that impossible. Through the surge, the United States has demonstrated to the Iranians that it is not withdrawing from Iraq, and the Iranians do not have the ability to force an American withdrawal. So long as the Americans are there and moving closer to the Sunnis, the Iranians cannot achieve their positive goals and also must harbor concerns about the long-term future of Iraq. Each side has blocked the other’s strategic positive goal. Each side now wants to nail down its respective negative goal: avoiding the thing it fears the most.

Ever since the 2006 U.S. congressional midterm elections, when President George W. Bush confounded Iranian expectations by actually increasing forces in Iraq rather than beginning a phased withdrawal, the two countries have been going through a complex process of talks and negotiations designed to achieve their negative ends: the creation of an Iraq that cannot threaten Iran but can be a buffer against Iranian expansion. Neither side trusts the other, and each would love to take advantage of the situation to achieve its own more ambitious goals. But the reality on the ground is that each side would be happy if it avoided the worst-case scenario.

Again, ignoring the rhetoric, there has been a fairly clear sequence of events. Casualties in Iraq have declined — not only U.S. military casualties but also civilian casualties. The civil war between Sunni and Shia has declined dramatically, although it did not disappear. Sunnis and Shia both were able to actively project force into more distant areas, so the decline did not simply take place because neighborhoods became more homogeneous, nor did it take place because of the addition of 30,000 troops. Though the United States created a psychological shift, even if it uses its troops more effectively, Washington cannot impose its will on the population. A change in tactics or an increase of troops to 150,000 cannot control a country of 25 million bent on civil war.

The decline in intracommunal violence is attributable to two facts. The first is the alliance between the United States and Sunni leaders against al Qaeda, which limited the jihadists’ ability to strike at the Shia. The second is the decision by the Iranians to control the actions of Iranian-dominated militias. The return of Muqtada al-Sadr — the most radical of the Shiite leaders — to ayatollah school and his decision to order his followers to cease fire dramatically reduced Shiite-on-Sunni violence. That would not, and could not, have happened without Iranian concurrence. If the Iranians had wanted the civil war to continue unabated, it would have. The Iranians cannot eliminate all violence, nor do they want to. They want the Americans to understand that they can resume the violence at will. Nevertheless, without the Iranian decision to limit the violence, the surge would not have worked.

If the prime Iranian threat against the United States was civil war in Iraq, the prime American threat against Iran was an air campaign against Iranian infrastructure. Such a campaign was publicly justified by the U.S. claim that Iran was developing nuclear weapons. With the Iranians having removed the threat of overwhelming civil war in Iraq, the United States responded by removing the threat of an air campaign. The publication of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) stating that Iran does not have a nuclear program at present effectively signaled the Iranians that there would be no campaign.

There was intense speculation that the NIE was a “coup” by the intelligence community against the president. Though an interesting theory, not a single author of the NIE has been fired, none of the intelligence community leaders has been removed, and the president has very comfortably lived with the report’s findings. He has lowered the threat of war against Iran while holding open the possibility — as the NIE suggests — that the Iranians might still be a threat, and that a new NIE might require airstrikes.

The Iranians reduced Shiite violence. The United States reduced the threat of airstrikes. At various points, each side has tested and signaled to the other. The Iranians have encouraged small-scale attacks by Shia in recent weeks, but nothing like what was going on a year or two ago. During Bush’s trip to the region, the United States triggered a crisis in the Strait of Hormuz to signal the Iranians that the United States retains its options. The rhetoric remains apocalyptic, but the reality is that, without admitting it, each side has moved to lower the temperature.

Clearly, secret negotiations are under way. The announcement that an agreement was reached on the structure and subject of a public meeting this week by definition means that unpublicized conversations have been taking place. Similarly, the announcement that Ahmadinejad will be visiting Iraq could not have come without extensive back-channel discussions. We would suspect that these discussions actually have been quite substantial.

The Iranians have made clear what they want in these negotiations. Mottaki was quoted in the Iranian media as saying, “We did express our readiness for entering into negotiations with the U.S. when the talks were held by the five Security Council permanent members plus Germany over Iran’s nuclear program.” He also said that, “Revising its policies toward Iran, the U.S. can pave the way for us to consider the circumstances needed for such talks to be held.” Since talks are being held, it must indicate some movement on the American part.

It all comes down to this: The United States, at the very least, wants a coalition government in Iraq not controlled by Iran, which can govern Iraq and allow the United States to draw down its forces. The Iranians want an Iraqi government not controlled by the United States or the Sunnis, which can control Iraq but not be strong enough to threaten Iran. Iran also wants the United States to end sanctions against Iran, while the United States wants Iran to end all aspects of its nuclear program.

Ending sanctions is politically difficult for the United States. Ending all aspects of the nuclear program is difficult for Iran. The United States can finesse the sanctions issue by turning a blind eye to third powers trading with Iran and allowing U.S. companies to set up foreign subsidiaries to conduct trade with Iran. The Iranians can finesse the nuclear issue, maintaining limited aspects of the program but not pursuing all the technologies needed to build a weapon.

Rhetoric aside, we are therefore in a phase where there are ways for each side to get what it wants. Obviously, the political process is under way in both countries, with Iranian parliamentary elections on March 14 and the U.S. presidential race in full swing. Much domestic opposition is building up against Ahmadinejad, and an intensifying power struggle in Iran could be a fairly large distraction for the country in the short term. The Iranians also could wait a bit more to see how the U.S. presidential campaign shapes up before making any major decisions.

But then, a political process is always under way. That means the rhetoric will remain torrid; the public meetings few and low-key; the private discussions ongoing; and actions by each side sometimes inexplicable, keyed as they are to private discussions.

But it is clear from this week’s announcements by the Iranians that there is movement under way. If the Iranian president does visit Iraq and the United States makes no effort to block him, that will be the signal that some sort of accommodation has been reached. The United States and Iran will not recognize each other and will continue to condemn and even threaten each other. But this is truly a case where their rhetoric does not begin to reflect the reality.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 20, 2008, 03:13:12 AM
Mr. President, Don't Forget Iran
February 19, 2008; Page A19

Dear Mr. President: A few months ago, it became possible to hear members and supporters of your administration going around Washington and saying that the question of a nuclear-armed Iran "would not be left to the next administration." As a line of the day, this had the advantage of sounding both determined and slightly mysterious, as if to commit both to everything and to nothing in particular.

That slight advantage has now, if you will permit me to say so, fallen victim to diminishing returns. The absurdly politicized finding of the National Intelligence Estimate -- to the effect that Iran has actually halted rather than merely paused its weapons-acquisition program -- has put the United States in a position where it is difficult even to continue pressing for sanctions, let alone to consider disabling the centrifuge and heavy-water sites at Natanz, Arak and elsewhere.

Over the course of the next year, you will have to decide whether this question will indeed be left to become a problem for the succeeding administration. As matters now stand, the U.S. is in the not-unfamiliar position of appearing to be more bellicose than it actually is. The picture is complicated by the fact that, unlike Iraq in the past or North Korea today, Iran can boast quite an impressive "civil society" movement, which would like both to replace the current ramshackle theocracy and to adopt better and closer relations with the U.S.

In other words, Iran is running on two timetables. The first one -- the gradual but definite emergence of a democratization trend among the young and the middle class -- is something that we can gauge but not determine. The second one -- the process by which a messianic regime lays hold of the means to manufacture apocalyptic weaponry -- could move rather faster, and is partly designed in any case to insulate the mullahs from regime change.

Is it possible that these two apparently discrepant elements can be brought into a more, shall we say, synergistic relationship, and that the U.S. can regain the initiative that has (yet again!) been lost to it by the actions of its own intelligence bureaucracy? The answer is yes.

Consider our advantages. To begin with, all visitors to Tehran report an extraordinary level of sympathy with the U.S. among the general population. On my own visit to the country, I was astonished by the sheer number of people who had relatives overseas, and who wished they could join them. Most especially among the young, pro-American cultural and musical "statements" are as common as they were in Eastern Europe before 1989.

We have removed from power the two most hated enemies, not of the Iranian mullahs alone, but of the Iranian people. It is true that many Iranians feel nervous about having American forces on their Afghan and Iraqi frontiers, but it is equally true that our ability to demolish the Taliban and the Saddam Hussein tyrannies has greatly impressed many Iranians. Iranians are acutely aware of the backwardness of their country. Iran may be floating on a lake of oil, but still conducts much the same backward, rug-and-pistachio economy that it was operating when the mullahs seized power almost 30 years ago.

Changing my gear and tone a little, I want to mention another kind of advantage altogether. Iran is scheduled to suffer from a devastating earthquake in the very near future. Its capital, Tehran, is built on a cobweb of fault-lines: a predicament not improved by the astonishing amount of illegal and uninspected construction that takes place, thanks to corruption and incompetence, within its perimeter.

I want to underline what might be called a seismic imperative. A serious earthquake in Iran could wreak untold damage not just on the Iranian people but on their neighbors, and the clerical regime is doing nothing to prepare for this eventuality or to protect against it.

In the aftermath of the 2003 earthquake that rocked Bam, American search-and-rescue teams performed prodigies of valor and skill and became so popular locally that the news of their achievements had to be hushed up by the regime's less-than-perfect censorship. Consider, then, the "public diplomacy" impact of a serious public offer to Iran, made through international media and from the podium (so often usurped by the clownish Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) of the United Nations. The U.S. could propose the following: a commitment to help Iran protect its centers of population and its key installations against an earthquake. Along with the provision of expertise and advice would come a request for inspections of key facilities, especially those which might, if ruptured, pose a Chernobyl-type threat to neighboring countries.

At one stroke, this would make a strong appeal, on a matter of urgent material interest, to the general Iranian public. It would point a contrast between our priorities and those of the regime. And it would position us, before the fact, for something not unlike the well-improvised post-tsunami operation mounted by the U.S. Navy in Indonesia.

In the same speech it ought to be said that the U.S. and its allies -- committed as they are to assisting Iran to acquire a peaceful nuclear energy capability, and alarmed as they are by signs of a deceptive strategy in this regard -- would like to be sure that our negotiating partners truly represent the Iranian people. It could even be said that our intervention in Iraq, and the consequent liberation of the Shiites, will prove to have long-term positive consequences.

I have heard it argued that any carrot-shaped initiatives directed at Tehran constitute a reward for the regime's bad behavior, and might even encourage the harder-line mullahs to believe that their intransigence had paid off. But I don't think that this can be said for the proposals outlined above, which are directed at the Iranian people, and which in effect offer them considerable benefits in exchange for something that the majority of them appear to desire in any case, namely political and social transparency.

It's eternally fashionable in Washington (and elsewhere) to contrast "diplomatic" initiatives with "saber-rattling" ones. What this naïve dichotomy overlooks is the plain fact that without the known quantity of the American saber, few if any diplomatic movements would be possible. If the moment comes when you, Mr. President, feel that a "Nixon-in-China" initiative is required, and an offer of direct dealing with Iran and the Iranians is warranted, it will be important for you to find some telling words in which to phrase an acknowledgment of those facts.

The current period of suspended animation cannot be protracted indefinitely. In our own current election, every serious candidate has stated that the outcome of a nuclear theocracy is simply not acceptable. It will indeed need to be decided, and in the lifetime of your administration, whether we aim merely to negate that intolerable ambition, or whether we have the ingenuity to make this the occasion for a wider and deeper engagement, consummating the progress made in Iraq and Afghanistan and confirming it in the keystone society that lies between them.

Mr. Hitchens is a Vanity Fair columnist. An expanded version of this article first appeared in the Winter 2008 issue of World Affairs.

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Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 04, 2008, 09:27:05 AM
Iran's Nuclear Threat
March 4, 2008; Page A17

The United Nations Security Council has passed another resolution concerning Iran because its nuclear program is an unacceptable threat. Iran's violations of Security Council resolutions not only continue, but are deepening. Instead of suspending its proliferation-sensitive activities as the council has required, Iran is dramatically expanding the number of operating centrifuges and developing a new generation of centrifuges, testing one of them with nuclear fuel.

Once again, Iran has not made the choice the world had hoped for; once again, the Security Council has no choice but to act. At stake is the security of a vital region of the world, and the credibility of the Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as they seek to hold Iran to its nonproliferation commitments.

The latest report from the IAEA states that Iran has not met its obligation to fully disclose its past nuclear-weapons program. On the core issue of whether Iran's nuclear program is strictly peaceful, the report showed no serious progress.

The IAEA presented Iran with documents assembled over a period of years from multiple member states and the agency's own investigations. The documents detailed Iran's efforts to develop a nuclear warhead, including designs for a missile re-entry vehicle, and showed other possible undeclared activities with nuclear material.

Iran dismissed these documents as "baseless and fabricated." But the IAEA does not share that conclusion.

Instead of slogans and obfuscations, the international community needs answers from Iran. The international community must be able to believe Iran's declaration that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes. Iranian leaders must as a first step fully disclose past weapons-related work, and implement additional safeguards to ensure no continuing hidden activities. We agree with the IAEA that until Iran takes these steps, Iran's nuclear program cannot be verified as peaceful.

The latest IAEA report also states that Iran is not suspending its proliferation-sensitive activities.

For almost two years now, the Security Council has required Iran to suspend all of its enrichment-related, reprocessing, and heavy water-related activities. I want to ask the Iranian leaders, "If your goal is to generate nuclear power for peaceful purposes, why do you court increasing international isolation, economic pressure and more, all for a purported goal more easily and inexpensively obtained with the diplomatic solution we and others offer?"

I want the Iranian people and others around the world to know that the United States recognizes Iran's right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. They should know that the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany have offered to help Iran develop civil nuclear power, if it complies with the Security Council's demand -- a very reasonable demand -- to suspend enrichment. They should know that the package of incentives includes active international support to build state-of-the art light water power reactors, and reliable access to nuclear fuel.

Iran should do what other nations have done to eliminate any doubts that their nuclear program is peaceful. Many states have made the decision to abandon programs to produce a nuclear weapon. Two of them sit on the Security Council today: South Africa and Libya.

Other countries that have stepped away from past nuclear-weapon aspirations include Brazil, Argentina, Romania, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. These countries did not see their security diminished as a result of their decisions. Indeed, one could easily say their security has been enhanced. Nor did they lose their right to develop nuclear energy. We urge Iran to take the same path these other states have chosen.

The international community has good reason to be concerned about Iran's activities to acquire a nuclear-weapons capability. The present Iranian regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose a greater potential danger to the region and to the world.

The Iranian government has been a destabilizing force in the broader Middle East and beyond. Contrary to its statements, Iran has been funding and supporting terrorists and militants for operations in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and Afghanistan. Their lethal assistance has harmed countless innocent civilians. The president of Iran has made many reprehensible statements -- embracing the objective of destroying a member state of the United Nations.

Because of all these factors, the international community cannot allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. If Iran continues down its current path, it would likely fuel proliferation activities in the region, which, in turn, could cause the demise of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime itself.

The U.S. remains committed to a diplomatic solution. If Iran shares this commitment, it will suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities and let diplomacy succeed. We call on Iran to engage in constructive negotiations over the future of its nuclear program. Such negotiations, if successful, would have profound benefits for Iran and the Iranian people.

The message from the U.S. to the people of Iran is that America respects you and your great country. We want Iran to be a full partner in the international community. And as President Bush has said, if Iran respects its international obligations, it will have no better friend than the United States of America.

Mr. Khalilzad is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 07, 2008, 06:17:40 AM
Irresolution on Iran
March 7, 2008; Page A14
The Bush Administration is hailing as a diplomatic triumph Monday's 14-0 Security Council resolution further sanctioning Iran for its nuclear programs. For its part, Tehran calls the U.N. action "worthless," and unfortunately the Iranians are closer to the mark.

For a resolution in the making for a year, it turns out to be an astonishingly hollow document. It adds a handful of names to the list of Iranians who are subject to travel bans and asset freezes. It calls on states to exercise "vigilance" in dealing with two Iranian banks -- Melli and Saderat -- implicated in Iran's nuclear programs, but falls short of sanctioning them. And it allows states to inspect Iranian-bound cargoes suspected of transporting prohibited items, but only if those cargoes are being moved by Iran's national air and shipping lines. Good luck enforcing that.

This is all the more remarkable given what the U.N.'s own inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are saying about Iran -- that is, the evidence on which the Security Council based its decision. In a report released late last month, the IAEA focuses on what it calls "alleged studies" Iran conducted on nuclear weapons development. For example, it notes Iranian studies of the "schematic layout of the contents of the inner cone of a re-entry vehicle," which the IAEA assesses "as quite likely to be able to accommodate a nuclear device."

Elsewhere, the report states that "during the meetings of 3-5 February 2008, the Agency made available documents for examination by Iran and provided additional technical information related to: the testing of high voltage detonator firing equipment; the development of an exploding bridgewire detonator (EBW); the simultaneous firing of multiple EBW detonators; and the identification of an explosive testing arrangement that involved the use of a 400 [meter] shaft and a firing capability remote from the shaft by a distance of 10 km, all of which the Agency believes would be relevant to nuclear weapon R&D."

Iran insists the documents are "fabricated," presumably by the Zionist conspiracy. Yet last week, IAEA Deputy Director General Olli Heinonen gave a technical briefing to IAEA member states in which he noted that the information on Iran "came from multiple member states and covered a wide range of activities," according to a U.S. official familiar with the briefing. The official added that Iran "was first confronted with questions on these weaponization activities in 2005, thus putting the lie to Iranian claims that it did not have sufficient time or opportunity to respond to the IAEA's inquiries."

Meanwhile, Iran continues to flout the Security Council's chief demand that it suspend its uranium enrichment program. The production of sufficient quantities of fissile material is one of three key components in any nuclear weapons program, a fact that was relegated to a footnote in December's U.S. National Intelligence Estimate claiming Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003.

Nor did that NIE make any mention of Iran's ongoing ballistic missile programs, the second key component. Instead, its chief claim was that Iran had suspended work on weaponization, which by all expert accounts is the least challenging part of a nuclear-weapons program. The IAEA report does not make clear if its own information corroborates the NIE claim about the suspension of this work. But it is a fresh reminder that Iran almost certainly lied about its previous weapons work, and continues to lie today.

That alone ought to be reason for stepped up pressure on the Islamic Republic. Instead, the weakness of this week's resolution, though masked by the show of unanimity, demonstrates that the "international community" has reached the outer limit of what it is prepared to do to stop Iran from becoming the world's 10th nuclear-weapons state. There is no more juice to be squeezed out of this lemon.

It has now been nearly five years since the Bush Administration began pursuing a multilateral track on Iran, a course it has followed patiently nearly to the end of its term. That hasn't done much to assuage its usual critics, and it didn't prevent its own intelligence bureaucracy from torpedoing that diplomacy with the December NIE.

What it has done is give Iran vital time to develop its nuclear knowhow and technical skill, perhaps to a point of no return. For President Bush, whose signature promise has been that he would not allow the world's most dangerous weapons to fall into the hands of the most dangerous regimes, this is not a record to be proud of.

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Title: Bush's overture
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 11, 2008, 12:47:40 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Bush's Overtures to Iran and a Message to the American Public
April 11, 2008
In his speech on Thursday morning, U.S. President George W. Bush made two clear overtures to Iran, signaling that an agreement over Iraq is possible. The first came as a choice to Tehran, saying it “can live in peace with its neighbor, enjoy strong economic and cultural and religious ties, or it can continue to arm and train and fund illegal militant groups which are terrorizing the Iraqi people and turning them against Iran. If Iran makes the right choice, America will encourage a peaceful relationship between Iran and Iraq. If Iran makes the wrong choice, America will act to protect our interests and our troops and our Iraqi partners.”

The second overture split al Qaeda from Iran, saying “Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century — al Qaeda and Iran.”

These two messages show that the United States does not consider negotiations with Iran to be off-limits — as it does regarding talks with al Qaeda — and that if Iran cooperates (i.e. negotiates with the United States), the issue of Iraq could be settled peacefully to more or less the mutual satisfaction of both Washington and Tehran.

In testimony to the U.S. Senate on April 8, Gen. David Petraeus issued the same kind of message, saying that Iran had a choice on how the situation in Iraq would progress and leaving the door open for cooperation. However, Bush and Petraeus continued to make it very clear that the United States would punish Iran if it chose to continue to support elements of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army. Washington has by no means removed any threats of retaliation from the table. While the United States will pause its troop reductions in Iraq this summer to consolidate its gains and hedge its bets, the sustainment of the U.S. military force in Iraq will also resonate strongly in Tehran.

Bush and Petraeus’ statements seem to be responses to an Iranian Foreign Ministry announcement on April 8 that the United States wanted to start another round of talks with Iran. These negotiations have been taking place on and off for the past year. On April 7, al-Sadr announced that he might disband the Mehdi Army, which seems to indicate that Iran is willing to halt its violent meddling in Iraq – temporarily at least. And this might suggest that talks between Washington and Tehran are progressing.

However, too many deal-breakers are still on the table to call this conflict settled. Israel of late has issued warnings to Syria, Hezbollah and Iran and is conducting war exercises, suggesting that something is brewing in the Levant. Israel also is gearing up for an offensive against Hamas in Gaza. Another Mideast conflict in the midst of negotiations over Iran, while not necessarily devastating, would put a U.S.-Iranian deal in jeopardy. Meanwhile, the upcoming U.S. elections are looming: it would be in Iran’s best interest to reach a conclusion with Bush rather than try to negotiate a deal with an unknown quantity — the next American president.

Statements from Bush’s speech and in Petraeus’ testimony acknowledge that Iran is a significant stakeholder in Iraq. Without cooperation from the Iranians, Iraq has no chance of recovering. By insisting that the situation in Iraq has improved, Bush and Petraeus are implicitly saying that, so far, Iran is cooperating. Dual statements — despite all of their caveats — from the president and the U.S. commander in Iraq suggesting that Iran is cooperating with the United States is a significant improvement in rhetoric. This is a signal to Iran that Washington is willing to engage in a final settlement, and it is a signal to the American public to prepare for a more open dialogue between the two rivals. Progress with Iraq does not come without progress with Iran.

It will be interesting to watch Iran over the next few days to see how the leadership there responds to these overtures. More positive signals from Iran could mean that further negotiations are pending. The political situation between the United States and Iran is reflecting the situation on the ground — one that offers the opportunity of a tenable agreement over the future of Iraq.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: ccp on April 11, 2008, 04:56:04 PM
Interesting.  I would rather have McCain negotiating this with a position of strength than Obama giving away the store with weakness.

"“Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century — al Qaeda and Iran.”

China is clearly the biggest threat we face.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on April 13, 2008, 06:39:23 AM
China is less of an immediate threat. Iran may well do things in the short term that scar the flow of history.
Title: Iran Ballistic Missile sites?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 14, 2008, 01:10:54 PM

A new report by The Times of London says that satellite photographs of a site in Iran indicate the location is being used to develop a ballistic missile that could reach most of continental Europe.

The Times writes that the photographs show the launch site of a Kavoshgar 1 rocket that Iran tested on February 4. Tehran claimed that the rocket was intended to further a nascent Iranian space program, but The Times says that the photos suggest otherwise.

Analysis of the photographs taken by the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite four days after the launch has revealed a number of intriguing features that indicate to experts that it is the same site where Iran is focusing its efforts on developing a ballistic missile with a range of about 6,000km (4,000 miles).

A previously unknown missile location, the site, about 230km southeast of Tehran, and the link with Iran's long-range programme, was revealed by Jane's Intelligence Review after a study of the imagery by a former Iraq weapons inspector. A close examination of the photographs has indicated that the Iranians are following the same path as North Korea, pursuing a space programme that enables Tehran to acquire expertise in long-range missile technology.

Geoffrey Forden, a research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that there was a recently constructed building on the site, about 40 metres in length, which was similar in form and size to the Taepodong long-range missile assembly facility in North Korea.

The Times adds that the rocket launched from the facility in February was based on Iran's Shahab 3B missile, which is in turn based on North Korea's Nodong missile. Geoffrey Forden, a member of the UN team monitoring Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in 2002 and 2003, noted that while the test rocket did not indicate any significant advances in Iran's missile technology, the launch site had "very high levels of security and recent construction activity" and appeared to be "an important strategic facility."

If the Iranian facility is indeed developing a long-range ballistic missile, it would explain NATO's decision last week to move ahead with the missile shield program supported by the US. The Christian Science Monitor reported last week that the Bush administration scored a key success by persuading NATO to approve the missile shield, which is meant to protect against missiles like those that Iran is linked to.

NATO members all supported the US position on missile-shield defense, which is to be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland. "There is a threat ... and allied security must be indivisible in the face of it," read the statement on missile defense.

But Iran has denied any hostile intent behind its rocket program. While Tehran has not yet commented on the Times report, after the February test of the Kavoshgar 1 rocket it stated its intent to use the technology for launching satellites, reported The New York Times.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad... said on state-run television: "We need to have an active presence in space. We witness today that Iran has taken its first step in space very firmly, precisely and with awareness."

Iran has said that it wants to put satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters and to improve telecommunications, as well as for security reasons.

Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar said Iran would launch its domestically made satellite, called Omid, meaning Hope, in June, Fars News reported.

But US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the launch "troubling," noting that "the kinds of technologies and capabilities that are needed in order to launch a space vehicle for orbit are the same kinds of capabilities and technologies that one would employ for long-range ballistic missiles."

Much of the concern of both the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, stems from evidence found on a laptop stolen by an Iranian in 2004 and turned over to US intelligence services. Among other documents on the laptop, investigators found "drawings on modifying Iran's ballistic missiles in ways that might accommodate a nuclear warhead," reported The Washington Post in February. But the problem is proving that the documents are legitimate.

U.S. intelligence considers the laptop documents authentic but cannot prove it. Analysts cannot completely rule out the possibility that internal opponents of the Iranian leadership could have forged them to implicate the government, or that the documents were planted by Tehran itself to convince the West that its program remains at an immature stage....

British intelligence, asked for a second opinion, concurred last year that the documents appear authentic. German and French officials consider the information troubling, sources said, but Russian experts have dismissed it as inconclusive. IAEA inspectors, who were highly skeptical of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, have begun to pursue aspects of the laptop information that appear to bolster previous leads.

"There is always a chance this could be the biggest scam perpetrated on U.S. intelligence," one U.S. source acknowledged. "But it's such a large body of documents and such strong indications of nuclear weapons intent, and nothing seems so inconsistent."

Despite the possibility of Iran developing a long-range ballistic missile in time, Mr. Forden says that they likely still have a long way to go., a blog on WMDs and national security, cites Forden's observations about the flaws revealed by the February launch .

Iran's February 4th launch of a Shahab-3 just keeps on getting more and more interesting; that is if you are interested in just how good of a missile the Shahab/No'dong is. Video from Iran's television show that there is a failure of the missile's thrust vector control system nineteen seconds into its powered flight. At that point, there is a brief flaring at the very end of the missile and an object is seen flying off for several seconds, until it leaves the video's frame as the camera continues to follow the missile. Tellingly, it doesn't just drop off the missile but is given quite a transverse boost.

Forden says that the debris indicates that the missile's graphite jet vanes, used to steer the rocket in flight, are being "eaten away" by the rocket exhaust. Such a problem can knock a missile severely off course, he adds.

So what does this mean for missile proliferators in general and Syria and Iran (and North Korea since they are all involved in the development of these missiles) in particular? It means that they are still having a hard time producing graphite tough and pure enough to be used in large missiles. It also indicates that a top priority for their missile engineers will be to develop other thrust vector control mechanisms.

Title: Oil being stored in tankers?!?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 16, 2008, 10:51:37 AM
An Iranian Oil Mystery
May 16, 2008 | 0200 GMT
Iran confirmed on Thursday that it has booked a supertanker to store up to 270,000 tons of crude oil for up to 90 days. The Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) that Iran commissioned from Singapore-headquartered Tanker Pacific are expected to arrive in Iran the first week of June.

Iran already has more than 28 million barrels of oil floating in tankers outside its main export terminal in the Persian Gulf. The fleet of tankers storing this crude is owned by NITC, a subsidiary of state-owned oil firm National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC), and has a capacity of more than 30 million barrels of crude — the equivalent of more than a week of Iran’s oil output.

There is something very wrong with this picture.

With oil prices soaring above $127 per barrel, any energy-producing country would be jumping at the opportunity to sell its crude and reap hefty profits. The Iranians, however, are choosing to store a huge bulk of their crude offshore in large tankers. Instead of making money off crude sales, Iran is expending loads of petrodollars to store nearly 30 million barrels of crude for weeks. Storing crude in offshore tankers for long periods of time is certainly not cheap.

So, what is Iran up to?

There are several possible explanations to Iran’s curious energy policy. Some energy analysts have speculated that Iran is holding out for a better market price to sell its oil. But with oil prices already hitting record highs, this explanation does not add up.

Another explanation is that the current policy is a result of the NIOC’s inferior management skills — which is certainly possible, given Iran’s poor track record in managing its investment-deprived energy sector. The intent behind such a policy would be for Iran to manipulate global crude prices by reducing exports and driving up demand.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad already threw around threats in recent days to cut Iranian oil output, sending jitters through the energy market that ended up pushing oil prices to $127 per barrel. From the standpoint of the Iranian Energy Ministry, the threats to reduce output combined with a reduction in exports could drive up prices further and allow the Iranians to get a better deal on their crude sales.

But it appears that the Iranians already tried this strategy — and failed — in the summer of 2006. Beginning in March of that year, the Iranian government issued threats that it would cut its crude production while storing around 20 million barrels of oil in tankers. But instead of selling at a higher price, the Iranians found that oil traders simply looked elsewhere to make up for the difference. In the end, the Iranians wound up selling the bulk of that crude at a major discount to Royal Dutch/Shell and India’s Reliance.

Moreover, Iran is highly unlikely to follow through with its threats of dropping crude output. The Iranians are already producing oil at capacity at 4.02 million barrels per day (bpd). With the Iranian oil sector accounting for approximately 80 percent of Iran’s total exports (with 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product absorbed in energy subsidies), the country cannot afford to cut production and absorb the loss in income. Despite being the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, Iran is also the world’s second-largest importer of gasoline due to its faltering refining sector; and it is a major food importer. With food prices and inflation rising, Iran is all the more dependent on its oil revenues to maintain internal political stability, and it would be shooting itself in the foot if it took the hit of cutting its oil output.

The more likely reason behind Iran hoarding its oil is a drop in demand for Iranian crude — which spells far more serious consequences for the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s main oil export is a heavy crude that is difficult for refiners to convert into transport fuel. Most of the oil currently being stored off the Iranian coast comes from the Soroush and Nowruz fields, which produce approximately 190,000 bpd of low-quality, high-sulfur crude. Iran has already had a difficult time finding buyers for this heavy sour crude, but still is highly reluctant to cut the price down. The Iranians appear to have now reached a point where they have little choice but to take the hit in income and store the crude, in the hopes that demand for their product will rebound.

The main energy clients for Iranian crude include Japan, China, India, South Korea, Italy and other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations. But as the global food crisis worsens and inflation rates continue to soar worldwide, these countries will be loath to put up with Iran’s high prices for low-quality crude.

Iran can easily disguise its energy woes with rhetoric on how it is punishing the West by cutting output and driving up global crude prices. These threats will continue to send a jolt through energy investors and bump up prices a notch or two. But Iran will have a much harder time reaping the benefits of high energy prices as long as its energy income is strained by a drop in demand for its crude. Oil is the backbone of the Iranian economy, and if Iran is resorting to storing up loads of crude in the Gulf for lack of buyers, its financial — and thus internal political — stability will soon be coming into serious question.

It’s important to remember that Iran has an incredibly delicate social stability index to manage, with only about 55 percent of its population composed of ethnic Persians. The remaining population is made up of ethnic minorities who are kept in check by Tehran through a combination of military force and heavy state subsidies. If it is already having trouble sustaining its oil exports — and its economic problems continue to worsen — Iran runs the risk of losing its ability to function as a state, much less an aggressive one.

Tell Stratfor What You Think
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on June 08, 2008, 05:48:40 PM

Unintelligence on Iranian Nukes
Appalling gamesmanship at the CIA.
by Michael Rubin
02/25/2008, Volume 013, Issue 23

During his February 5 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell backpedaled from the December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and its claim that, "in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

Not only did McConnell testify that the Islamic Republic was working to master the enrichment of uranium--"the most difficult challenge in nuclear production"--but he also acknowledged that, "because of intelligence gaps," the U.S. government could not be certain that the Iranian government had fully suspended its covert nuclear programs. "We assess with high confidence that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity eventually to produce nuclear weapons," he testified. "In our judgment, only an Iranian political decision to abandon a nuclear weapons objective would plausibly keep Iran from eventually producing nuclear weapons--and such a decision is inherently reversible."

The NIE was no accident, and McConnell's pirouette does more than confirm the intelligence community's sloppiness. The 2007 NIE was built on geopolitical assumptions as much as any hard intelligence, and historians will deem it important not because it was accurate, but because it made utterly clear the collapse of the intelligence community. While the crudeness of its assault on the president's Iran policy makes it the best example of the intelligence community's agenda politics, it is far from the only one.

My initiation into CIA policy plays came less than a week after Baghdad's fall to coalition forces in April 2003. In the months before the war, U.S. government officials had assessed thousands of Iraqi political activists and technocrats in order to prepare to fill the Iraqi political -vacuum. Representatives from State, the Pentagon, and the National Security Council were meeting to vet invitations for the Nasiriya Conference where Iraqis would discuss post-liberation governance.

Rather than simply present the biographies of the various Iraqi figures, the CIA sought to be a privileged policy player. Its representative announced that not only would Langley be inviting its own candidates outside the interagency consensus, but the CIA would not be sharing the names or backgrounds of its invitees. Putting aside the ridiculousness of the CIA belief that it could invite delegates anonymously to a public conference, more troubling was the principle. Far from limiting its work to intelligence, the CIA leadership was unabashedly involving itself in major policy initiatives.

The reverberations of Langley's policy games haunted reconstruction. CIA officials would promise governorships to Iraqis without any coordination. Often, diplomats, military officials, and Pentagon civilians would learn of such deals only after other Iraqis had been appointed or elected to such offices. (Some U.S. servicemen surely paid the price as spurned Iraqis responded to what they saw as betrayal.) Once the son of a Kurdish leader remarked how ridiculous State-Defense bickering was when the CIA had implemented and funded a decision on the policy issue months before without any coordination whatsoever.

Many of the agency's senior analysts are arrogant after years behind their computers, believing they know far better what U.S. policy should be than the policymakers for whom they draft reports. The recourse of the disgruntled, bored, or politicized analyst is the leak--the bread and butter of any national security correspondent. Journalists who fulfill the leakers' objectives win ever more tantalizing scoops; those who maintain professional integrity and question the agenda behind any leak, find their access cut. The result is a situation in which journalists who might otherwise double-check sources, take a single intelligence analyst at his word, even if he is using them to fight a policy battle.

Iraq again provides a case study. In order to shield themselves from accountability over flawed intelligence or to bolster their Iraqi proxies at the expense of competitors, CIA officials provided a steady stream of leaks to favored correspondents like the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh or McClatchy's Warren Strobel. Such leaks ranged from allegations that the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans--a policy shop--was a rogue intelligence operation to misattributions of the provenance of prewar intelligence.

It was not uncommon, for example, to see false or exaggerated intelligence attributed to the Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi when it had actually come from Kurdish officials. This was never more clear than in a July 17, 2004, New York Times correction. The paper was retracting three stories which alleged a connection between Chalabi and an Iraqi source code-named Curveball, whose information later turned out to be bogus. The editors explained that their correspondent had "attribute[d] that account to American intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity." They continued: "Those officials now say that there was no such established relationship." In other words, intelligence officials lied to a reporter to achieve a policy aim.

Such behavior is not limited to debates over policies impacting countries thousands of miles away. W. Patrick Lang, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, told the American Prospect in 2005 that his intelligence community colleagues used leaks to try to influence the 2004 presidential election. "Of course they were leaking. They told me about it at the time. They thought it was funny. They'd say things like, 'This last thing that came out, surely people will pay attention to that. They won't reelect this man.' " The intelligence leadership did not refer the matter to the judiciary, unlike the leak concerning Valerie Plame.

To deflect criticism of the NIE, intelligence officials reached out to reporters. "Hundreds of officials were involved and thousands of documents were drawn upon in this report .  .  . making it impossible for any official to overly sway it," the Wall Street Journal was told. Wayne White, a former analyst in State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, suggested it was "absolutely disgusting" that anyone could impugn the professionalism of lead author (and his former colleague) Thomas Fingar. This is disingenuous. Personnel are policy. Half of Washington's battles involve who writes the first and last drafts of any paper or memo.

McConnell's testimony undercut the idea that the intelligence agencies deserve a reputation for either professionalism or integrity. A tolerance for political gamesmanship has besmirched the entire community. With the NIE giving Iran what President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared its "greatest victory during the past 100 years," the consequence for U.S. national security is grave.

In the wake of the Iraq war, many Democrats accused the Bush administration of politicizing intelligence. It was a false charge, but good politics. But the fact is, the problem was the opposite: an intelligence community driven by the desire to conduct policy.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was an Iran country director at the Pentagon between September 2002 and April 2004.
Title: Stratfor
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 11, 2008, 03:42:09 PM
U.S. President George W. Bush on June 11 raised the possibility of a military strike against Iran to thwart the country’s presumed nuclear ambitions, The Associated Press reported. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, speaking to a crowd in the Iranian city of Shahr-e-Kord, said Bush would not be able “to harm even one centimeter of the sacred land of Iran.”
Title: Iran is calling our bluffs
Post by: ccp on June 19, 2008, 07:13:24 AM
I don't know how many times it becomes clear that only military force will work.

BO response IMO will be:
Iran is not a real threat to the US.  They are not the Soviet Union. They have no intercontinental missles.  I will be tough with them.  People who are saying I can't protect the US are descending into personal attacks and disappoint me.  I will protect us.  I will send the police and an army of $600/hr liberal lawyers to talk some sense into them and out legaleeze them.  We are a country built on 200 years of laws.  What a joke.  His scripted lines are getting so predictable and obnoxious. 

We are apparently ready to repeat the same mistakes of history.  And the young who are forever idealistic are not old enough to understand this though they think they are smarter.  If I recall the line "youth is wasted on the young" was a line from *ancient* Greece.  Some things never do change.

***Ahmadinejad says West failed in Iran nuclear crisis     
Jun 19 06:54 AM US/Eastern
      President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday the West has failed to break Iran's will in the nuclear standoff, days after world powers presented Tehran with a new offer aimed at ending the crisis.

"In the nuclear issue, the bullying powers have used up all their capabilities but could not break the will of the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by state television.

World powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States -- on Saturday offered Tehran a new package of technological and economic incentives in exchange for suspending uranium enrichment activities.

The West fears the process might be used to make an atomic bomb although Iran insists it only wants to generate nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Ahmadinejad's comments were his first statement on the nuclear crisis since the offer was presented but it was not clear if they represented a reaction to the proposal.

The Iranian government spokesman has already said Tehran will reject any offer demanding it suspends uranium enrichment.

The UN nuclear watchdog has been investigating Iran's nuclear drive for over five years but has never been able to conclude whether the programme is peaceful.

Iran has said it is examining the package but has so far showed no indication that it will change its defiant course in its nuclear drive.

Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh ruled out on Wednesday that the country could freeze enrichment, saying: "Iran will never submit to such an illegal act."***
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on June 23, 2008, 07:08:38 AM

Europe fears Obama on Iran

One might think that Europe would welcome Barack Obama with open arms, but according to Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post, Obama has them worried.  Key European allies fear a rupture between the US and the Continent if Obama attempts to waive the precondition of enrichment cessation in dealing with Iran.  While they would like to see a heavier emphasis on team play rather than American hegemony, Obama’s insistence on cozying up to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is far out of step with the rest of the West:

European officials are increasingly concerned that Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to begin direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program without preconditions could potentially rupture U.S. relations with key European allies early in a potential Obama administration.

The U.N. Security Council has passed four resolutions demanding that Iran stop enriching uranium, each time highlighting the offer of financial and diplomatic incentives from a European-led coalition if Tehran suspends enrichment, a route to producing fuel for nuclear weapons. But Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has said he would make such suspension a topic for discussion with Iran, rather than a precondition for any negotiations to take place.

European officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they are wary of giving up a demand that has been so enshrined in U.N. resolutions, particularly without any corresponding concessions by Iran. Although European officials are eager to welcome a U.S. president promising renewed diplomacy and multilateralism after years of tensions with the Bush administration, they feel strongly about continuing on the current path.

Obama’s response?  Dr. Susan Rice told the Post that Europe has failed, and a new approach was needed.   That ought to kick-start a new era in American diplomacy, eh?

While Europe may not care for the Bush administration’s tendency towards saber-rattling, they do not prescribe to the nonsense that dropping the precondition for ending enrichment would somehow make the Iranians more likely to stop.  The EU has been on the front line of this issue for several years, and they have first-hand experience with Iranian lies and double-dealing.  They understand that it will take a strong, united, and dominant front to force the Iranians into retreat on uranium enrichment.

At the moment, Europe has its hands full in pushing Russia and China into recognizing this, even with the US on board.  An Obama presidency would put the US in a position even softer than that of Russia and China and give the Iranians a breath of fresh air.   Obama’s team says such talks would provide the US with more leverage against Iran, but never quite explain how that would work.  Supposedly, failed talks at the presidential level would prompt tougher sanctions from Russia and China, but why would they agree to that when their own failed talks with their own client did not?  Why would they act tougher when the West acts weaker?

What Europe fears is the Chamberlain effect.  When a leader of a democracy gets elected on a peace platform and then meets with the head of hostile states, a tremendous pressure for success grows until the democratic leader starts bargaining to show some kind of victory.  After all, if Obama walked away from Ahmadinejad empty handed, he’d look like a buffoon.   Ahmadinejad would have little pressure to produce anything from such a meeting, except to remain obstinate.

Europe likes to remind people that the preconditions of cessation are European demands, not American, although the US has supported it wholeheartedly.  Obama’s insistence on dropping this precondition in order to score PR points with MoveOn and Ahmadinejad looks a lot less like multilateralism and much more like cowboy diplomacy than anything Bush has done on Iran thus far.  If Obama is to Europe’s left on Iran, what does that say about his foreign policy?
Title: EU approves tougher sanctions
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 23, 2008, 12:05:05 PM,2933,370164,00.html

EU Approves Sanctions Against Iran's Largest Bank
Monday, June 23, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium —  European Union nations approved new sanctions against Iran on Monday, including an assets freeze of the country's biggest bank.

The Bank of Melli is suspected of providing services to Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and, in a similar move, was blacklisted by the United States last year.

The EU said it will also announce Tuesday additional financial and travel sanctions — effective immediately — on several Iranian companies and "senior experts" linked to Tehran's nuclear program.

The 27-nation bloc is also studying sanctions against Iran's oil and gas sector — but such a step would probably take several months to implement, diplomats say.

Monday's sanctions were formally adopted without debate at the beginning of EU talks in Luxembourg. EU leaders agreed on the measure at talks in Brussels on Friday.

Western nations fear Iran's uranium enrichment program could be used to make a nuclear bomb. Iran insists its enrichment work is intended to produce fuel for nuclear reactors that would generate electricity and has vowed to push ahead with uranium enrichment.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, held unsuccessful talks with Iranian officials in Tehran last week in the latest diplomatic overture aimed at convincing them to accept an offer of economic incentives in return for an end to its uranium enrichment program.
In Tehran, independent analyst Saeed Laylaz said the freezing of Bank Melli's assets would lead to the Iranian economy becoming more isolated and more dependent on Chinese products.

But he suggested President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might stand to benefit. Targeting Iran "drives inflation up," Laylaz said, "but it helps Ahmadinejad's government hide its failures behind the sanction."
Title: John Bolton prediction
Post by: ccp on June 24, 2008, 03:42:30 AM
In Bolton's opinion:

"An Obama victory would rule out military action by the Israelis because they would fear the consequences given the approach Obama has taken to foreign policy," said Mr Bolton, who was Mr Bush's ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006."

***Israel 'will attack Iran' before new US president sworn in, John Bolton predicts
By Toby Harnden in Washington
Last Updated: 9:50AM BST 24/06/2008
John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations, has predicted that Israel could attack Iran after the November presidential election but before George W Bush's successor is sworn in.
John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations
Bolton: 'the argument for military action is sooner rather than later'

The Arab world would be "pleased" by Israeli strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, he said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

"It [the reaction] will be positive privately. I think there'll be public denunciations but no action," he said.

Mr Bolton, an unflinching hawk who proposes military action to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons, bemoaned what he sees as a lack of will by the Bush administration to itself contemplate military strikes.
Article continues

"It's clear that the administration has essentially given up that possibility," he said. "I don't think it's serious any more. If you had asked me a year ago I would have said I thought it was a real possibility. I just don't think it's in the cards."

Israel, however, still had a determination to prevent a nuclear Iran, he argued. The "optimal window" for strikes would be between the November 4 election and the inauguration on January 20, 2009.

"The Israelis have one eye on the calendar because of the pace at which the Iranians are proceeding both to develop their nuclear weapons capability and to do things like increase their defences by buying new Russian anti-aircraft systems and further harden the nuclear installations .

"They're also obviously looking at the American election calendar. My judgement is they would not want to do anything before our election because there's no telling what impact it could have on the election."

But waiting for either Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, or his Republican opponent John McCain to be installed in the White House could preclude military action happening for the next four years or at least delay it.

"An Obama victory would rule out military action by the Israelis because they would fear the consequences given the approach Obama has taken to foreign policy," said Mr Bolton, who was Mr Bush's ambassador to the UN from 2005 to 2006.

"With McCain they might still be looking at a delay. Given that time is on Iran's side, I think the argument for military action is sooner rather than later absent some other development."

The Iran policy of Mr McCain, whom Mr Bolton supports, was "much more realistic than the Bush administration's stance".

Mr Obama has said he will open high-level talks with Iran "without preconditions" while Mr McCain views attacking Iran as a lesser evil than allowing Iran to become a nuclear power.

William Kristol, a prominent neo-conservative, told Fox News on Sunday that an Obama victory could prompt Mr Bush to launch attacks against Iran. "If the president thought John McCain was going to be the next president, he would think it more appropriate to let the next president make that decision than do it on his way out," he said.

Last week, Israeli jets carried out a long-range exercise over the Mediterranean that American intelligence officials concluded was practice for air strikes against Iran. Mohammad Ali Hosseini, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said this was an act of "psychological warfare" that would be futile.

"They do not have the capacity to threaten the Islamic Republic of Iran. They [Israel] have a number of domestic crises and they want to extrapolate it to cover others. Sometimes they come up with these empty slogans."

He added that Tehran would deliver a "devastating" response to any attack.

On Friday, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, said military action against Iran would turn the Middle East into a "fireball" and accelerate Iran's nuclear programme.

Mr Bolton, however, dismissed such sentiments as scaremongering. "The key point would be for the Israelis to break Iran's control over the nuclear fuel cycle and that could be accomplished for example by destroying the uranium conversion facility at Esfahan or the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.

"That doesn't end the problem but it buys time during which a more permanent solution might be found.... How long? That would be hard to say. Depends on the extent of the destruction."***
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 24, 2008, 02:35:38 PM

IAEA Chief: Iran Could Make Nuke In 6 Months
CBS News Interactive: About Iran
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CBS) ― The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Iran could create a nuclear weapon in six months.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei spoke on Al-Arabiya television on June 20, discussing Iran's nuclear program, and the potential for the Middle Eastern country to produce a nuclear weapon.

"If Iran wants to turn to the production of nuclear weapons, it must leave the NPT, expel the IAEA inspectors, and then it would need at least, considering the number of centrifuges and the quantity of uranium Iran has...It would need at least six months to one year," ElBaradei said.

"Therefore, Iran will not be able to reach the point where we would wake up one morning to an Iran with a nuclear weapon," he said.

His interviewer then asked "If Iran decides today to expel the IAEA from the country, it will need six months to produce [nuclear] weapons?"

The IAEA chief answered, "It would need this period to produce a weapon, and to obtain highly-enriched uranium in sufficient quantities for a single nuclear weapon."

The ElBaradei interview was conducted one day after reports emerged of a large-scale military exercise by Israel.

U.S. officials said they thought the Israeli exercises were meant to warn Iran of Israel's abilities to hit its nuclear sites.

ElBaradei also warned that he will resign as chief of the UN nuclear agency if Iran is attacked by any country.

"I always think of resigning in the event of a military strike...If military force is used, I would conclude that there is no mechanism left for me to defend," he said.

"The reports this week of Israeli military maneuvers, which took place in early June, provoked the IAEA warning," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Pamela Falk, who is based at the U.N., "because atomic energy chief ElBaradei has been pleading with Iran to accept a new package of incentives before another round of sanctions would be imposed."

"The problem in the region is that, as time passes and the clock is ticking on Iran's uranium enrichment program, there is a fear that Israel will act, as it did in Syria last year, to attack at least one of Iran's nuclear facilities," said Falk, who was in Saudi Arabia earlier this week.

"Israel is evidently the most threatened by the last IAEA report, which concluded that there are unanswered questions about Iran's ability to eventually develop nuclear weapons," said Falk, "so it is elBaradei himself who produced the report that is making Israel nervous."

Meanwhile, Iran is reiterating its decision to continue enriching uranium, calling Western pressure to suspend the work "illogical."

The statement by a government spokesman came as Europe waits for Iran's formal answer to an international package of incentives designed to rein in its nuclear program.

Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted Iranian spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham on Saturday as saying that his country will respond to the package at a convenient time.

The package would give Tehran economic incentives, and the chance to develop alternate light-water reactors, in return for dropping the uranium enrichment.

(© 2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Title: Seymour Hersh on Secret Bush moves against Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 30, 2008, 08:11:34 AM
Its Seymour Hersh, so super caveat lector.

Normally I like to post the content in addition to the URL, but this one is just too long for that.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on June 30, 2008, 08:23:58 AM
**If you see a story with a Seymour Hersh byline, assume that it's weakly sourced and has been spun like cotton candy to fit his very obvious agenda.**

Are we doing cloak and dagger stuff in Iran?
By see-dubya  •  June 29, 2008 03:14 PM

Well, DUH, I hope so. But it’s not like they tell everybody this stuff, you know. It’s supposed to be a secret.
Seymour Hersh, however, would have us believe a whole bunch of anonymous military, intel, and political people are eager to confirm to him that we’re doing something new and secret over there.
You could read the whole New Yorker article, but why bother? Hersh says a lot of nutty things–usually things that can’t be proven and are never proven. Here’s a Fox News summary instead, and I like this White House response:
The White House did not comment on the article. And one administration official, who asked not to be identified, dismissed the piece: “We’ve declined comment on Hersh’s quarterly articles. You can almost tell time by them.”
The thing about Hersh’s rambling is that if Iran believes it, they could crack down on those minority groups and dissidents that Hersh claims we’re funding. And Iran isn’t exactly bound by Boumediene v. Bush in their interrogations, you know?
For that matter, if there is any truth to what Hersh has written, it may compromise operations enough that we have to go to Plan B.
I hope it was worth it, Sy.
UPDATE: More on “Plan B” at Israel Insider.
Title: Strat on Hersh article
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 30, 2008, 12:10:40 PM
U.S. President George W. Bush issued a highly classified presidential finding in late 2007 approving the initiation of covert operations focused on “undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” according to a July 7 article in The New Yorker by Seymour Hersh. Congressional leaders reportedly have been informed of the finding, and approved up to $400 million dollars to fund the operation.

This is, of course, explosive news. What is explosive is not that the United States is spending money on covert operations in Iran, but that someone has leaked a highly classified document to a reporter. The secret is now out; indeed, it was released before the article’s publication date. Hersh said only that the person who gave him the information was familiar with the document’s contents. This means his source is a person with extraordinarily high, code-named clearance — not to mention a criminal.

We would expect the Bush administration to be launching multiple investigations to find the leaker. If he is a Republican or a member of the administration or the intelligence community, then massive damage control is essential. If he is a Democrat who leaked (or an official of an agency deemed unfriendly to the administration), the incident represents a political opportunity. Everyone who had access to that document should be attached to a polygraph right now. Washington should have been in turmoil all weekend.

It wasn’t. Aside from some desultory comments, no one seems terribly upset that a major covert operation has been uncovered in the press and thereby crippled.

We are certain that a journalist of Hersh’s stature, writing for a respected publication like The New Yorker, did not make his story up. Since arrests are not pending, we can only conclude that the information was deliberately leaked to Hersh by the administration. This would not be the first time Hersh has been used as a channel by administration leakers. In 2006, he reported that the administration was carrying out covert operations in Iran for roughly the same end. Hersh is not friendly to the administration to say the least. A story by him carries great credibility because it appears to be an authentic scoop by a major journalist revealing things the administration doesn’t want revealed. Such a story therefore increases the sense of uncertainty in Iran substantially more than if a minor, pro-administration journalist published it. As we have pointed out in the case of the Mediterranean air exercises by Israel, the United States and Israel are intent on increasing the psychological pressure on Iran. This story fits into that pattern.

The only thing interesting in the story is the idea that until late 2007 there had been no presidential finding and the United States was not engaged in covert operations in Iran to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program and foment regime change. Given the administration’s stance on Iran, it is unthinkable that the intelligence community would not have been running operations in Iran for years focused on just these things. Stratfor has regularly reported on various bombings in the southwestern Arab regions of Iran as well as in Sistan-Balochistan, noting that these would be likely areas to foment unrest.

The latest finding could be an intensification in operations, but the authorization to spend up to $400 million to mess with the Iranians is really not all that much money — especially since that is the cap, and the time frame for expenditures isn’t authorized. But as Hersh made clear in 2006, operations already were under way, meaning a finding had to have been in place.

With all due respect to Mr. Hersh and The New Yorker, this is a report on the obvious. The United States regards Iran as a major target for covert operations, urgently wants to know everything it can about Iran’s nuclear facilities and would love to overthrow the Iranian government. A few hundred million, even on a long shot, is the least the United States would throw at this. As for a finding in late 2007, we do not know where the bureaucratic process is right now, but there have been presidential findings on covert operations in Iran for almost thirty years. Still, the details the administration has decided to make available to The New Yorker via Hersh should make worthwhile reading.

The important point is that unless there has been a massive breach of security, the administration has again acted to increase tensions with Iran — and this just a week after floating the idea of increased diplomatic ties with Iran and about ten days since leaking the report on the Israeli exercises. Since this article has been in preparation for weeks or months, and its publication date has not been under administration control, it remains unclear where in the sequence this leak was intended. But psychological warfare with Iran seems the order of the day, and this article is clearly part of it.

Our read of course might be wrong. Grand juries might be convening as we write and the FBI could be ranging all over D.C. taking statements from everyone with access to covert U.S. plans in Iran. But until that happens, we look at this as another attempt to make the Iranians feel insecure.

Tell Stratfor What You Think
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on June 30, 2008, 11:03:09 PM
Stratfor gives Hersh more credit than I do. It wouldn't surprise me to find his source is made up and he's inventing things, as NY Times reporters have a history of doing.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: ccp on July 01, 2008, 07:10:50 AM
I find it hard to believe Stratford's interpretation.

It doesn't add up.  You mean to tell me the administration would deliberately leak that they are performing politically sensitive covert operations in Iran and Pakastan?

The last thing Bush needs to do is create more fodder for the crats.

Also this puts American lives at risk.  I don't believe Stratford's interpretation is true.  This doesn't put pressure on Iran IMO.

I think it more likely Hersh has an either idealogue (crat and/or dove) or bribed mole somewhere giving him information.  I also doubt he is making it up.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 01, 2008, 09:06:04 AM
I too wonder if Strat is a bit too in love with a particular theory about what's going on to see this for what it is.
Title: Defecate or get off the pot
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 03, 2008, 02:58:57 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Economic and Political Effects of an Iranian Threat
July 2, 2008
The rumors and denial of rumors continue to swirl around Iran. Endless leaks of decisions made by the United States and/or Israel to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities continue. In the latest variants, Americans warned that Israel might already have decided to attack Iran, with the date set sometime between the U.S. election and Inauguration Day. Or it might be the Americans attacking. It is not clear what effect this is having on Iran, but it is certainly making others players nervous, not the least of which are the oil markets.

There is an important interaction going on between two geopolitical elements. One is the attempt by Israel and the United States to force the Iranians to capitulate on the nuclear issue by convincing them that an attack is inevitable if they don’t. The other is the impact of oil prices on the global economy and thereby on international power relations. An attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would obviously spike oil prices. The real question would be whether that spike in prices would last and how high it would go. The answer to that question rests in what the Iranians would do in response. The Iranians have now been duly warned that an attack is coming. One would think that they have considered their response.

The obvious response, if the Iranians are capable of it, would be to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which Saudi and Kuwaiti oil flows to the world markets. The obvious means for this, as we discussed in an analysis Tuesday, would be to mine the Strait. That might not be as easy as it appears, since the U.S. Navy could deploy in the Strait en masse and block any Iranian ship that might try to approach the channel. But the Iranians would likely retain the ability to mine parts of the Persian Gulf itself. Iran has a long coast and a lot of small boats. It wouldn’t take much to scatter mines.

Most importantly, it would not have to be effective. The mere possibility of mines — the uncertainty factor — would not only slow down the movement of tankers in the Gulf, but also spike insurance rates. Tankers cost a lot of money and their cargoes these days are incredibly expensive. Risking both ship and cargo is not something tanker owners like to do. They buy insurance. If the possibility of mines in the Gulf existed, insurance rates would not only rise, but might become altogether unavailable. Insurance and re-insurance companies these days do not have enormous appetites for unpredictable risk involving large amounts of money. And without insurance, as we saw during the tanker wars in the 1980s, owners won’t take the risk themselves.

Iran’s counter could be to increase the potential risk to the point where insurers back off. At that point, governments would have the option of insuring tankers themselves. Given how quickly governments move, particularly in what would have to be an international undertaking, oil supplies could be disrupted for days or even weeks. At this point, speculators and psychology aside, prices would spike dramatically. The creaking sound would turn into a cracking sound for the world economy.

Herein lies the fear for markets. The longer the psychological warfare goes on, the more nervous they will become and the more pressure there will be on the global economy. The thought of this going on until after the November election may or may not panic the Iranians. But it is certainly worrying the markets at a time when the markets should be calmed. It is hard to figure out whether months of uncertainty or rapid action would have more soothing results.

Conducting an extended psychological campaign against Iran makes complete politico-military sense. It does not make politico-economic sense. It creates a massive unknown in a situation where no action may actually be taken. Here is the problem. It is clear that Israel and the United States don’t really want to attack Iran. If they wanted that, they would shut up and do it. But that’s a guess. So the markets must take into account a possible attack and an Iranian counter. Hitting Iran fast, taking the hit and then calming the markets by showing that the Iranians can’t disrupt tanker traffic makes more sense from an economic standpoint than constantly creating unknowns.

The problem is that neither Israel nor the United States is certain that Iran can’t disrupt tanker traffic. And they don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons. Some decisions have to be made. Attack, don’t attack — but stop threatening to attack.
Title: Iran says it will hit Tel Aviv and US ships if attacked.
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 09, 2008, 03:25:01 AM
Its Reuters, so caveat lector:

July 8, 2008

Iran Says Will Hit Tel Aviv And U.S. Ships if Attacked

Filed at 1:43 p.m. ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will hit Tel Aviv, U.S. shipping in the Gulf and American interests around the world if it is attacked over its disputed nuclear activities, an aide to Iran's Supreme Leader was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

"The first bullet fired by America at Iran will be followed by Iran burning down its vital interests around the globe," the students news agency ISNA quoted Ali Shirazi as saying in a speech to Revolutionary Guards.

The United States and its allies suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs. Tehran says its program is peaceful.

Leaders of the Group of Eight rich countries expressed serious concern at the proliferation risks posed by Iran's nuclear program.

In a statement issued after G8 leaders met in Hokkaido, northern Japan, the grouping urged Tehran to suspend all enrichment-related activities.

"We also urge Iran to fully cooperate with the IAEA," the G8 said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said earlier that major world powers had decided to send European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to Iran for talks on an incentives package they offered last month to induce Tehran to change its nuclear policy.

Sarkozy did not say when Solana would travel to Tehran. Iran formally replied on Friday to the offer by the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany.

France said Iran's response had ignored the world powers' demand for a suspension of uranium enrichment before talks on implementing the package -- a condition rejected on Monday as "illegitimate" by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


In Prague, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there were ways that Iran might wish to talk with Solana or others in order to get that suspension to take place.

"I did speak with Javier Solana yesterday. He is in contact with his Iranian counterpart and it's our great hope that the Iranians will avail themselves of this opportunity to get on the right side of the international community."

Shirazi's comments intensified a war of words that has raised fears of military confrontation and helped boost world oil prices to record highs in recent weeks.

"The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned," Shirazi was quoted as saying.

Shirazi, a mid-level cleric, is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Revolutionary Guards.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, declined to comment on the threat to hit Tel Aviv, saying only: "Shirazi's words speak for themselves."

Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power, has vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb. The United States says it wants to resolve the dispute by diplomacy but has not ruled out military action.

In April, Israel's Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is a former army general and defense minister, told Israeli media: "An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel, which will destroy the Iranian nation."


Tel Aviv is an Israeli coastal metropolis hit in 1991 by Scud missiles launched by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during a U.S.-led war with Baghdad.

"I think it is very scary what they are saying," said Roy Katalan, holding his infant daughter in his arms on a Tel Aviv beach. "I think we should take him (Shirazi) seriously."

The latest Iranian threats had little impact on financial markets in Israel. "This has no relevance on dollar-shekel trade. I assume if we see a strike, there will be a reaction," said Neil Corney, treasurer for Citigroup's office in Tel Aviv.

Oil tumbled to below $136 on Tuesday, dropping by about $10 this week on a stronger dollar and eased concern over an Atlantic hurricane. Oil had hit a record $145.85 last week on tensions over Tehran's nuclear ambitions and worries a brewing storm could hit oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it comes under attack. About 40 percent of globally traded oil moves through the Gulf waterway.

In Washington, the U.S. Treasury designated four Iranian firms and four individuals on Tuesday for their ties to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, a move that bans U.S. companies from dealing with them and freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

The Revolutionary Guards' commander of artillery and missile units, Mahmoud Chaharbaghi, said 50 brigades of his forces had been equipped with what he called smart cluster munitions.

"All our arms, bullets and rockets are on alert" to defend Iranian territory, Hemayet daily quoted him as saying.

U.S. and British naval forces wrapped up military exercises in the Gulf and said they were unrelated to tensions with Iran. The Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet said "Exercise Stake Net" took place in the central and southern Gulf and was part of training aimed at protecting the region's oil infrastructure.
Title: WSJ: Iran's Missile Threat
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 10, 2008, 06:36:15 AM
Iran's Missile Threat
July 10, 2008; Page A14
Talk about timing, perhaps fortuitous. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Prague signing an agreement that's a first step toward protecting Europe from ballistic missile attack. As if on cue, Tehran yesterday tested nine missiles, including several capable of reaching southern Europe, as well as Israel and U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East. Remind us. Who says Iran isn't a threat?

The chief naysayer is Moscow, which continues to insist that the planned U.S.-led missile defense for Europe is aimed at defeating Russian missiles, not Iranian ones. This was Vladimir Putin's line, and the new Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, picked it up yesterday, saying that the antimissile system "deeply distresses" Russia and is a threat to its national security. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement warning that if the system is deployed, "we will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods." Good to see the Russians haven't lost their subtle touch.

No one in that neighborhood – least of all the Russians – actually believes Iran's missile program is anything but dangerous. Russians talk privately about the Iranian threat, and it's not hard to imagine a scenario whereby Tehran shares a missile – and perhaps a nuclear warhead – with its brother Muslims in Chechnya.

In any case, Washington's proposed antimissile system for Europe is designed to defend against one or two missiles launched from Iran, not against the thousands of missiles in the Russian arsenal. It would include a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptors in Poland (or perhaps Lithuania, if the Poles can't get their act together). Russia's claim that this highly limited defense poses a threat to its nuclear deterrence is absurd.

Yesterday's tests offered no big surprises about Iran's missile technology, but they are a useful reminder of just how real the Iranian threat is – and how rapidly it is growing. One of the missiles tested was the latest update of the Shahab-3, which has a range of about 1,250 miles.

Replace the payload with a lighter one – say, a nuclear warhead – and the range gains 1,000 miles. Add a booster and the range can be extended even farther. North Korea did just that with its Taepodong missile – technology that it passed along to Iran. U.S. intelligence estimates that Iran will have a ballistic missile capable of reaching New York or Washington by about 2015.

Iran may already have the capability to target the U.S. with a short-range missile by launching it from a freighter off the East Coast. A few years ago it was observed practicing the launch of Scuds from a barge in the Caspian Sea.

This would be especially troubling if Tehran is developing EMP – electromagnetic pulse – technology. A nuclear weapon detonated a hundred miles over U.S. territory would create an electromagnetic pulse that would virtually shut down the U.S. economy by destroying electronic circuits on the ground. William Graham, head of a Congressional commission to assess the EMP threat, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee this morning. We hope someone asks him about Iran.

The proposed "third site" in Europe is part of a rudimentary missile-defense system that the U.S. already has in place for the homeland. It's one of the unsung successes of the Bush Presidency, and the U.S. and its allies are safer for it. Yet few Democrats are willing to acknowledge it. That apparently includes Barack Obama, whose response to Iran's missile tests yesterday was to call for more direct diplomacy with Tehran, tougher threats of economic sanctions and bigger incentives to behave – all of which Tehran has sneered at numerous times.

Some 30 nations, including North Korea and Syria, have ballistic missiles and their proliferation is sure to continue. The European site is part of the Bush Administration's vision of missile defense with a global reach. Iran's latest missile tests show that Europe needs an antimissile system more than ever.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on July 10, 2008, 08:15:38 AM
- Pajamas Media - -

Is Tehran Bluffing?

July 10, 2008 - by Spook 86

On the heels of a recent Israeli Air Force exercise — and cautionary words from the United States — Iran, quite literally, fired back on Wednesday. According to military and press accounts, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) units [1] test-fired nine missiles, including a medium-range Shahab-3, capable of reaching Israel.

While the Iranian missile test was enough to ratchet up regional tensions (and trigger a new spike in oil prices), it is possible to read too much into the day’s events, at least militarily. First, this type of drill is hardly an unusual event; IRGC missile units conduct an average of two or three major exercises each year, and missile crews practice continuously at their garrisons. Preparations for the test had been underway for several days and, presumably, detected by U.S. and Israeli intelligence.

Secondly, reporting on the missile test — or at least the information available so far — ignores the salient question about the supposed “highlight” of the exercise: the launch of an extended range Shahab-3 that could target Israel. This is not the first time Iran has tested a longer-rage version of the Shahab-3; launches involving that type of missile date back almost a decade.

But many of those tests had something in common: they resulted in failures, ranging from missiles that blew up in flight, failed to achieve the desired range, or strayed badly off course. So far, Tehran hasn’t provided details on Wednesday’s Shahab-3 launch, only saying that it has a maximum range of 1250 miles and is capable of carrying a one-ton payload. If the extended-range Shahab-3 remains unreliable, it will pose less of a threat to Israel and other potential targets in the Middle East.

In fact, Iran reportedly stopped work on another missile program (dubbed the Shahab-4), replacing it with BM-25 intermediate range missiles from North Korea. The BM-25 — based on an old Soviet SLBM design — arrived in Iran more than a year ago but has not been operationally tested. Cancellation of the Shahab-4 and slow progress with the BM-25 suggest continuing problems with Tehran’s intermediate and long-range missile programs.

Deficiencies can also be found among operational systems. Media reports on Wednesday’s launch are wildly inaccurate in one important element: characterizing many of the missiles tested as long-range systems. The Shahab-3 is actually classified as a medium-range system; the other missiles tested appear to be short-range systems, capable of reaching targets less than 150 miles away — and with only limited accuracy.

In fact, the three missiles that were launched simultaneously (and highlighted in press photos) are unsophisticated battlefield rockets, probably a Zelzal variant. Iran first introduced the Zelzal in the mid-1990s; it was based on the Russian Frog-7 design, which dates from the 1950s. Not exactly state-of-the-art. But the western press accepts Iranian military claims uncritically and often inflates the threat, much to Tehran’s delight.

Remember that advanced fighter that Iran built, supposedly equal to our own F/A-18? It’s actually a remanufactured U.S. F-5, with a second vertical stabilizer and marginally upgraded avionics. Or that high-speed torpedo? It is based on a Soviet design from World War II, requiring precise pre-launch calculations. If the target changes speed, zig-zags, or does anything to upset the firing solution, the torpedo misses its mark.

But with the media unwilling (or unable) to call Tehran’s military bluff, the exaggerated claims continue. After Wednesday’s launch, a senior Iranian officer told reporters that “our missiles are ready for the shooting at any time or place.” He said the purpose of the exercise was to show “we are ready to defend the integrity of the Iranian nation.”

In reality, his claims about a “hair-trigger” alert status are a bit of a stretch. Under some scenarios, it would take Iranian crews several hours to mount a strike due to the technology used in their missile systems. For example, older Shahab-3 variants use highly-voliatle liquid fuel, which must be loaded onto the missile before it can launch. While a highly-proficient crew can prepare the missile for firing in about an hour, less-skilled personnel may need two or three hours to complete the same task.

That’s a critical concern because it means the missile will sit at a fixed site while the preparations are made, increasing its vulnerability to detection and air attack. The problem is further compounded by the limitations of some Shahab-3 launchers which cannot raise an already-fueled missile to the firing position. As a result, the missile must be elevated prior to fueling, making the Shahab-3 easier to detect.

However, those problems do not mean that Iran’s missile threat can be ignored or marginalized. Ballistic missile “hunting” remains an imprecise art, at best. In a country like Iran (which is roughly the size of Alaska), there are plenty of launch sites where Shahab-3 crews could escape detection and targeting. Tehran also has detailed knowledge of our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems, sometimes scheduling missile movements and other activities during “gaps” in overhead coverage.

Iran has also invested in underground facilities for its missile units, allowing crews to conduct maintenance and training operations without being detected by intelligence systems. One such facility, built specifically for the Shahab-3, contains a vertical launch shaft, permitting the missile to be fueled and fired with minimal warning. Tehran has also begun building in-ground silos for some of its missiles, making it more difficult to monitor activity. These trends, coupled with Iran’s efforts to build more missiles and outfit them with nuclear weapons, are reasons for concern.

Still, it’s important to place events like the missile test in their proper context, at least from an operations perspective. Iran’s ballistic missile forces are improving, but they remain hindered by old technology and limited accuracy. It would be difficult (at least over the short term) for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon small enough to fit atop one of its existing missiles. Until that obstacle is overcome, Iran will lack a viable option for delivering a nuclear device, particularly against distant targets.

The bad news is that Iran has the cash, resolve, and technological access to overcome these obstacles. Liquid-fueled systems are being replaced by solid-fueled missiles and rockets (which can be launched in a matter of minutes) and left unchecked, Tehran will eventually get its hands on technology for smaller nuclear warheads, ideal for short and medium-range missile systems. Measures aimed at concealing missile and nuclear activity are also improving.

From a technical and military standpoint, Iran revealed nothing new in Wednesday’s test. Indeed, the event was (to some degree) an exercise in opportunism, allowing Tehran to grab some headlines, boost oil prices, and send messages to its adversaries at the end of a G-8 summit and in the middle of a U.S. presidential campaign. While preparations for the test began weeks or months ago, it is possible that Iran delayed the launch until the “right” political moment arrived.

And that brings us to a pair of salient points, with clear implications for our future dealings with Tehran. First, it would be reassuring to know that our intelligence community wasn’t fooled by today’s launch. A good barometer in that area is the presence of an RC-135 Cobra Ball aircraft, which tracks missile tests at long range. With sufficient warning from various intel sources, “The Ball” is usually in position ahead of time, ready to collect data with its infrared telescopes and other on-board systems. The appearance of Cobra Ball (or other intel platforms) also sends a powerful message to our adversaries: we know what you’re up to. On the other hand, if our sensors weren’t in position, it would raise the dire prospect that we’re losing track of the Iranian missile program and other, more ominous activities.

The final point focuses on the larger question of dealing with Iran and its WMD ambitions. Not long after Wednesday’s missile salvo was revealed, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama called for more sanctions against Iran and direct negotiations. But we’ve been trying that approach for several years (largely through the European Union), with no appreciable progress. Why does Mr. Obama believe the failed policies of the past will now work with the clerics in Tehran?

If anything, the missile test is a reminder that there are limits to diplomacy, and at some point the next commander-in-chief may be forced to try something else. Senator Obama’s refusal to consider those other options will only embolden Iran, and likely lead to further acceleration of its missile and nuclear programs. There’s no way you can read “too much” into that reality.

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Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on July 10, 2008, 08:40:48 AM
- Pajamas Media - -

Former CIA Agent in Iran Comes In from the Heat
July 8, 2008 - by 'Reza Khalili'

[Editor’s note: Pajamas Media has spoken with “Reza Khalili’s” attorney in Washington, D.C. who confirmed Khalili “had a working relationship with a US intelligence agency.” We have also seen a copy of the June 5, 2008 email sent by the agency’s “Manuscript Review” department authorizing the publication of this article.]

In an interview with Roger L. Simon, “Khalili” further amplifies his accusation of Iranian involvement in Lockerbie and addresses the controversial question of whether the Shiite mullahs would form alliances with Sunnis. A transcript of the interview is [1] here. More interviews with “Khalili” in disguised video form will be coming in the future from PJM. ]

The men who ordered the destruction of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie and the bombings of the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, and the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia are pursuing the nuclear program in Iran and with one goal in mind: to obtain The Bomb.

And they want to destroy you.

After the Iranian Revolution, I was an officer in the Revolutionary Guards. I was also a spy working for the CIA, code name Wally. My position in the Guards gave me access to the Khomeini regime’s deep secrets and a firsthand look at the unfolding horror: torture, rapes, executions, assassinations, suicide bombers, training of terrorists, and the transfer of arms and explosives to other countries to support terrorist attacks. I risked my life and my family’s trying to expose this regime because I believed it should be stopped. Once again I incur such risks to bring awareness that lack of action endangers the world.

In the mid-80s, I reported to the CIA that the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence unit had information that Saddam Hussein had made a strategic decision to acquire nuclear arms. I heard this from several sources within the Guards and also in a conversation with a member of the intelligence unit, who told me that the Guards were informed through arms dealers in the black market that Saddam was desperately looking for an atomic bomb. It was then that the Guards’ commanders and Iranian leadership decided to go nuclear and actively shop for components in the black market because they made a determination that the Iran-Iraq war could not have been won without a nuclear bomb. Mohsen Rezaei, then-commander of the Revolutionary Guards, requested permission from Ayatollah Khomeini to make Iran a nuclear power. Khomeini agreed.

Some years later, while I was stationed in Europe working for the CIA, I met with three Iranian agents who were shopping for nuclear parts. The agents confirmed what I had heard through the Guards: that Hashemi Rafsanjani had promised retaliation for the downing of an Iranian civilian jet by a U.S. warship over the Persian Gulf on July 3, 1988, toward the end of the Iran-Iraq war. According to the U.S government, an inexperienced crew mistakenly identified the Iranian Airbus as an attacking F-14 fighter; 290 people were killed. The agents said it was Rafsanjani who ordered the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988, which killed 270 people. They also talked about involvement of a Palestinian man and the radio transmitter that carried the bomb, information that I passed on to the CIA. I made an assessment at that time that Iran had ordered, through surrogates, the bombing of the Pan Am flight.

There was not much of a follow-up on Iran’s involvement in that incident because Rafsanjani had become the president of Iran, and my CIA contact told me to consider Rafsanjani the new king of Iran. It was apparent to me that President George H.W. Bush was going to support and trust Rafsanjani as the new ruler of Iran. He was promised cooperation and good relations by the mullahs, and the U.S. administration and the CIA in turn were convinced that the mullahs were open to a new chapter in Iran-U.S relations.

I believed then, as I do now, that the mullahs would never abandon their ambitions, and that after 29 years of negotiations by Europe and world powers, the world has yet to understand that the mullahs will not change direction or behavior. In the early ’90s, the senior Bush administration and the CIA finally realized they were being duped — the mullahs’ promises never materialized. The CIA asked me to look for an Iranian who could testify that Iran was in the process of making a nuclear bomb. That request was later withdrawn.

Iran remains the main sponsor of terrorism around the world. Iranian consulates, embassies, airlines, and shipping line offices are the main hub for terrorist activities. Money, arms, and explosives are transferred through these centers to fund terrorist groups and jihadists. Quds Force units of the Revolutionary Guards use the Iranian consulates as their command and control centers to plan and carry out assassinations, kidnappings, and terrorist activities. The mullahs even transferred money and arms in state visits using their high-ranking officials, knowing full well that because of diplomatic immunity they would not be subject to search during such visits. As I reported to the CIA, these activities were closely coordinated through Iran’s foreign ministry, the ministry of intelligence, and the Revolutionary Guards.

And then there is the Syrian connection, which facilitates the Revolutionary Guards in training and arming Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, and Hamas, based in the Palestinian Territory. Syrian facilities and political channels are at the Revolutionary Guards’ disposal, expanding their terror network. The mullahs not only support Syria with massive financial aid in hundreds of millions of dollars but also share missile-delivery technology and other military armaments. The Quds Force leadership is in close contact with Syrian military leaders, coordinating terrorist activities throughout the Middle East.

As Iran pursued its nuclear ambitions over the past few years, it needed to keep U.S. forces on the defensive in Iraq so Washington would not think of invading Iran. Tehran’s strategy was to use the mullahs’ connection to the Shiite clergies and population in Iraq that had been built up years before the U.S invasion. The Guards had established Badr brigades that had been expanded into a division with Iraqi recruits during the Iran-Iraq war and had helped Ayatollah Hakim in establishing the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, currently one of Iraq’s most powerful political parties. Its goal is to put as much pressure on U.S. forces through terror attacks as it can so the U.S. administration won’t think of expanding the Iraq war, giving Iran time to accelerate its nuclear research and development. Tehran knows full well it is in a race, and if it is able to perfect the technology, the West will have no choice but to live with a nuclear Iran. It also believes that after the current President Bush, the next U.S. administration (if led by a Democrat) will most likely reduce forces and slowly move out, leaving it for the Iraqis to sort things out, which ultimately will result in Iran’s domination of the region, with catastrophic consequences for the Free World. This has already happened with Hezbollah. Iran armed and trained Hezbollah into a political force in Lebanon which controls events on the ground, limiting the power of the Lebanese government and even confronting Israel as we saw in the 2006 Lebanon war.

Iran’s current defense minister, Mostafa Najjar, was in charge of the Revolutionary Guards forces in Lebanon that facilitated the attack on the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut on Oct. 23, 1983, killing 241 U.S. servicemen with the largest non-nuclear bomb in history. The current deputy defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, was the commander of the Quds Forces and the chief intelligence officer of the Guards, in charge of the terrorist activities outside of Iran. He had received authorization for taking the fight to the U.S forces and Israel’s interests around the world directly from Imam Khomeini, the supreme leader at the time. The operations in Lebanon were coordinated by these two men.

Four years after that bombing, Iran’s then-minister of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rafiqdoost, boasted that, “Both the TNT and the ideology, which in one blast sent 400 U.S. officers to hell, were provided by Iran.” Vahidi is currently on Interpol’s Most Wanted List for the attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994. That attack killed 87 and injured more than 100.

There is also strong evidence of the Quds Forces’ involvement in the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen and wounded 372 more on June 25, 1996. The attack was carried out by the Iranian-backed Saudi Hezbollah, but led back to the leadership in Tehran. In 2001, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the attack was inspired, supported, and supervised by elements in the Iranian government.

The most radical Islamists control the government in Iran. The Revolutionary Guards’ reach is all-encompassing: they control the vital industries in Iran, serve as ministers in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet, are members of the Parliament, control events in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territory through their Quds Force, and expand their terror network throughout the world, all the while making inroads in nuclear enrichment and missile-delivery technology.

It is not an exaggeration to claim that the radicals belonging to the secretive society called “Hojjatieh,” who are devoted to the 12th Imam, have taken control of all vital positions in Iran. Ayatollah Janati, the head of the Guardian Council in charge of interpreting the constitution, supervising elections, and approving of candidates running for public office, has been very vocal about his opposition to the West: “We are anti-American and we are America’s enemy,” and “Non-Muslims are animals roaming the planet.” They believe that the 12th Imam supports their agenda of obtaining nuclear weapons and destroying Israel in order to start the chaos necessary for the final destruction of what they see as American imperialism and Israeli Zionism.

The Revolutionary Guards, with the help of North Korea, are making advancements in their ballistic missile program by expanding the reach of its Shahab missiles and the successful launch of its long range Kavoshgar 1 missile on February 4, 2008. These missiles are capable of reaching Europe. At the same time, they are moving full speed ahead with their nuclear enrichment activity by installing the new IR-2 centrifuges which can enrich uranium at a faster speed than the P1 model. Iran has installed 3,000 P1 centrifuges with the goal of expanding that number to 50,000 within five years. It is estimated that it will take 1,200 of the new centrifuges to produce enough material for one nuclear weapon in one year as opposed to 3000 units of the P1 model that does the same job. The Guards always believed in a dual process in their operations for their military projects, so if one failed or was sabotaged, the other would carry on. They are doing just that. There is word that in the mountainous region of Mazandaran province, in the north of Iran, the Guards are pursuing nuclear arms underground.

Mostafa Najjar, the current defense minister, is overseeing the enrichment process and the missile-delivery advancements, and his deputy, Ahmad Vahidi, is overseeing the proliferation of arms and missiles to terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas in coordination with Syria.

Today, trying to fool the world, the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has publicly declared that pursuit and acquisition of atomic bombs are against Islam. But it was Khamenei himself, along with Hashemi Rafsanjani, Rezaei, and others in the leadership, who ordered the start of research and development of nuclear technology in the mid-80s.

Khamenei put out a statement to the world in 2008 that God would punish Iranians if they did not support the country’s disputed nuclear program, and any stop in the continuation of the nuclear work would be against God’s will. Ahmadinejad, in a recent 2008 speech, told the audience that the “enemy” (referring to the U.S. and Israel) and their superficial power are on a path to destruction, and that the countdown to their total destruction has begun.

The rulers in Iran believe it is their duty to prepare the circumstances for the reappearance of the 12th Imam. “Our Revolution’s main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, Imam Mahdi,” Ahmadinejad said during a speech in 2005 to leaders from across the country. Shiites believe the reappearance of the 12th Imam will bring justice and peace to the world by establishing Islam throughout the world. They believe he will reappear when the world has fallen into chaos. It is believed the chaos will start in Afghanistan and then move into Iraq, where there will be blood and destruction everywhere (already in the works) and from there to the world with burning dark clouds (nuclear war). The 12th Imam will then come to destroy the “Dajjal,” the False Messiah, free the world from oppression and aggression, and then bring justice where it will be heaven on earth for many years to come. It is said Jesus will reappear at the same time and fight alongside Mahdi.

Members of the Iranian leadership say they have a “signed contract” with the 12th Imam and are doggedly pursuing nuclear weapons to bring on that catastrophe. Iran’s president, Ahmadinejad, has said that Israel must be destroyed (2005 “World without Zionism” speech, “Israel must be wiped off the map”). This is no idle threat.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on July 10, 2008, 08:41:47 AM
If the mullahs’ true intention is to provide electricity through nuclear energy for the Iranians (which they claim) — the same Iranians whose women, students, teachers, writers and union workers are being flogged, beaten, tortured and stoned to death, the same Iranians who are denied a free election or freedom of speech — then why wouldn’t they accept the comprehensive incentive package offered by the world leaders in full, scrap the enrichment process, and bring peace and prosperity to their nation?

The reason is that their belief in Islam’s conquest of the world through the coming of the 12th Imam mandates their actions, and — just as a suicide bomber — they are not even interested in their own survival and cannot be diverted from their chosen path. The question is: Can the world afford to sit idly by and wait for Armageddon?

Next Page: transcript of “Reza Khalili’s” interview with Roger L. Simon

MR. SIMON: This is Roger Simon for Pajamas Media and I am here with Reza Khalili. Khalili is not the gentleman’s real name, he is a former CIA agent who infiltrated the

Revolutionary Guard of Iran. This may be a first on the radio or on the internet to reveal a former CIA agent to infiltrate that organization. Welcome to Pajamas Media, Mr. Khalili.

MR. KHALILI: Thank you.

MR. SIMON: How long did you work for the CIA?

MR. KHALILI: Well one thing is, Roger, I can’t be specific on the time, location, so forth and so on, to protect my identify but I’ll give you an estimate which was from the ’80s through the ’90s.

MR. SIMON: And you worked as a member of the Revolutionary Guard?

MR. KHALILI: I was, and I was working as a member of the Revolutionary Guard, yes.

MR. SIMON: And how did you come to work with the CIA?

MR. KHALILI: I went to Iran after the revolution since I had my education here in the United States, and I went with the hope that things are going to move along on — on a freedom for all political parties and so forth and so on. But what I witnessed was killings of the opposition, torture of the opposition, radical idea taking place in Iran forcing Iranian people, ordinary citizens to give into very restricted laws of Islam.

As the time went along, I became totally disgusted and I lost some good friends to the revolution, I had people dear to me die in the revolution and I basically took it upon myself to take action and make a difference. So I flew back to the US. Actually, I got the hope of the Revolutionary Guard to facilitate my trip. I made up some story which was partly true and flew to US, contacted the FBI, got in touch with the CIA and went through training and then back to Iran to the Revolutionary Guard, starting my new job as a CIA agent.

MR. SIMON: Had you joined the Revolutionary Guard before you came back to the US?

MR. KHALIL: Yes. I was in the Revolutionary Guard before I came in the US, yes.

MR. SIMON: Are there other members of the Revolutionary Guard who are US agents.

MR. KHALIL: Well, really I can’t comment on that. I can’t comment on that.

MR. SIMON: Reza Khalili is going to be doing a series of interviews, many on video — disguised video of course — for Pajamas Media, in which we will get into a great deal of detail on the workings of the Revolutionary Guard and so forth.

But let us turn now to an article, the first article that Mr. Khalili has done for Pajamas Media, which is appearing now and has a very sensational charge right at the top, a very controversial charge, that Iran was behind the Lockerbie disaster.

Now, this has usually been ascribed to Gaddafi and the Libyans. How are you sure that this is an Iranian caused event?

MR. KHALILI: Well, right after the disaster in the Persian Gulf, the US war ship shot down an Iranian civilian jet which caused, you know, more than 290 people were killed in that incident. That coincided with an ultimatum from President Reagan to the leadership of Iran to accept peace with Iraq. That ultimatum was very powerful, very — it was in the lines that if you do not accept peace, we’re going to come all out on you.

So the Libyans got together with Khomeini — Rafsanjani, Khomeini and the rest and they decided it was time to accept piece. And both Rafsanjani at that time, and the others in the leadership, promised the

Revolutionary Guard that they’re going to take revenge for the shooting down of the Iranian airliner. That was — I heard that from my sources within the Revolutionary Guard — that they were going to take revenge and hit a blow to the U.S. interest.

Now, shortly after that — shortly after the Pan Am incident I was in Europe on a mission and I had met with Iranian agents somewhere in Europe. I knew specifically who they were tied to and how high up they were connected. And it was right after the Pan Am bombing. We talked about the incident, they verified that Rafsanjani had ordered the Pan Am bombing and the retaliation for the Iranian airliner incident and they talked about a Palestinian suspect and the transistor — that the bomb was in the transistor radio. And then went on and talked about some of the investigation of one of the European governments that was in the process and which was not publicly available to people.

In my conversation with them I was convinced that this was an Iranian act. It was delivered, as promised, through their proxies. I reported my findings to the CIA, gave the names of the agents. They were traced — their travels were traced; where they were before, what countries they had visited. I told them of their connection to the Iranian hierarchy and so that’s where we left it off.

I expected a follow-up; nothing happened because six, seven months after Rafsanjani became the president Khomeini had died. Khamenei became the new supreme leader and CIA and US — the new US administration, President Bush Senior, made an assessment that

Hashimi Rafsanjani, the new president, is ready for a change in diplomatic relations as Rafsanjani had sent signals to the new US administration, as they always do they’re the master of deception.

So they changed their policies. They had traded my vision and opinion under Iranian government that they can never be trusted. Each one of them are a terrorist, and I’m not exaggerating. Everyone one of them have blood on their hand, either an American, Israeli or Persian.

So I was a foot soldier. I was somebody at the front lines reporting the facts and my opinion. Obviously they have their own analysts and organization that comes up with these opinions that they thought Rafsanjani was going to be a new leader and they told me, specifically, that Rafsanjani — consider Rafsanjani as the new king of Iran.

Well, about a year later they came to the conclusion that they were duped into such relations and they asked me to look for an Iranian who would testify that Iran was making a nuclear bomb at that time. Now I’m talking about early ’90s. That goes to show that the CIA And the US government knew that Iran was working on a nuclear bomb. I had reported in the mid ’80s that they were going to do that. They had come to a conclusion to do that because Saddam was looking for a nuclear bomb and technology during the war and as always, their policies of negotiation and trusting the Iranian leadership was false and hence the result and where we are right now.

MR. SIMON: Now, let me ask you a question about this. Does this mean that you think that the Iranian were working with Gaddafi on some level?

MR. KHALILI: Well, if — there was an article published June 2007, it was by Judd Scotland on Sunday and the evidence that the investigation was steered away from pointing to Iran and some of the evidence was actually interfered with to point to the defendant. Now, I don’t know who did it, as far as the specific person, but I know that Iran controls, and has under its command, several proxies throughout the world and they’ve shown that over and over again with the Beirut bombing, with the Khobar bombing, with the Pan Am bombing. In the ’90s they did a suicide bombing in Argentina on the Jewish community.

Some of the leaders, the current people in the Iranian government, are on Interpol’s most wanted. The Argentinean judge has an arrest warrant on Rafsanjani and several others; Rezai, Ahmad Vahidi, Velayati, Fallahian the minister of intelligence at that time.

The German prosecutor has arrest warrants for several of them. They are under arrest warrants by the three — they have done many, many assassinations and terrorist activities that are all streamed through the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Intelligence and the leadership in charge. And that’s the case right now. They’re still there. They’re still working the government with one goal in mind.

MR. SIMON: Reza Khalili, I am going to ask you a question that relates to the current presidential campaign in the United States because John McCain came under a certain amount of fire, supposedly for confusing Shiah’s and Shiites and Iran. In this fire they said that Iranian Shiahs would not work with Sunnis, do you think this is true?

MR. KHALILI: Well, it’s important to state that the Iranian government has been working with the Iraqi courts. That happened all along the Iran/Iraq war. Even though they did not share same ideology, the Iraqi courts and the Iranians were hand in hand to topple Saddam. They’ve been working with the Ba’athist regime of Syria since the revolution.

MR. SIMON: Who are Sunnis, of course, yes.

MR. KHALILI: Right. So they’ve been helping the Syrians and they’ve been expanding their power in the Middle East through the joint cooperation with the Syrians. Also the Taliban, their sworn enemy, they’ve been helping them in the uprising, after the invasion of Afghanistan, to counter attack the neutral forces and keep the pressure on the Americans.

They’ve got a long history with working with the leftist, with every terrorist group that they can to promote their agenda.

MR. SIMON: What about working with the biggest Sunni of all, Al Qaeda, do you think they’ve worked with Al Qaeda?

MR. KHALILI: Well, Ahmad Vahidi, the current deputy of the Defense Department. And he used to be the head of the Qods forces. He had — he’s had new things with Al Qaeda. He’s had contacts with Al Qaeda and they — of course they do share common goals but the enemy of my enemy is my best friend. Then, you know, that applies. They’ve had contact, they’ve helped and they have facilitated every different group as long as it promotes their agenda.

MR. SIMON: Well, thank you very much, Reza Khalili, for talking with Pajamas Media. We look forward to talking with you soon on podcast and in video form. Thank you very much.

MR. KHALILI: Thanks so much, bye bye.

MR. SIMON: All right. Bye.

Transcribed by Pnina Eilberg, [2] eScribers

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Title: Stratfor: The Geopolitics of Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 15, 2008, 10:51:09 PM
The Geopolitics of Iran: Holding the Center of a Mountain Fortress
Stratfor Today » July 14, 2008 | 1007 GMT

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of monographs by Stratfor founder George Friedman on the geopolitics of countries that are currently critical in world affairs. Click here for a printable PDF of the monograph in its entirety.

By George Friedman

To understand Iran, you must begin by understanding how large it is. Iran is the 17th largest country in world. It measures 1,684,000 square kilometers. That means that its territory is larger than the combined territories of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal — Western Europe. Iran is the 16th most populous country in the world, with about 70 million people. Its population is larger than the populations of either France or the United Kingdom.

Under the current circumstances, it might be useful to benchmark Iran against Iraq or Afghanistan. Iraq is 433,000 square kilometers, with about 25 million people, so Iran is roughly four times as large and three times as populous. Afghanistan is about 652,000 square kilometers, with a population of about 30 million. One way to look at it is that Iran is 68 percent larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, with 40 percent more population.

More important are its topographical barriers. Iran is defined, above all, by its mountains, which form its frontiers, enfold its cities and describe its historical heartland. To understand Iran, you must understand not only how large it is but also how mountainous it is.

Iran’s most important mountains are the Zagros. They are a southern extension of the Caucasus, running about 900 miles from the northwestern border of Iran, which adjoins Turkey and Armenia, southeast toward Bandar Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz. The first 150 miles of Iran’s western border is shared with Turkey. It is intensely mountainous on both sides. South of Turkey, the mountains on the western side of the border begin to diminish until they disappear altogether on the Iraqi side. From this point onward, south of the Kurdish regions, the land on the Iraqi side is increasingly flat, part of the Tigris-Euphrates basin. The Iranian side of the border is mountainous, beginning just a few miles east of the border. Iran has a mountainous border with Turkey, but mountains face a flat plain along the Iraq border. This is the historical frontier between Persia — the name of Iran until the early 20th century — and Mesopotamia (“land between two rivers”), as southern Iraq is called.

The one region of the western border that does not adhere to this model is in the extreme south, in the swamps where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers join to form the Shatt al-Arab waterway. There the Zagros swing southeast, and the southern border between Iran and Iraq zigzags south to the Shatt al-Arab, which flows south 125 miles through flat terrain to the Persian Gulf. To the east is the Iranian province of Khuzestan, populated by ethnic Arabs, not Persians. Given the swampy nature of the ground, it can be easily defended and gives Iran a buffer against any force from the west seeking to move along the coastal plain of Iran on the Persian Gulf.

Running east along the Caspian Sea are the Elburz Mountains, which serve as a mountain bridge between the Caucasus-Zagros range and Afghan mountains that eventually culminate in the Hindu Kush. The Elburz run along the southern coast of the Caspian to the Afghan border, buffering the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. Mountains of lesser elevations then swing down along the Afghan and Pakistani borders, almost to the Arabian Sea.

Iran has about 800 miles of coastline, roughly half along the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf, the rest along the Gulf of Oman. Its most important port, Bandar Abbas, is located on the Strait of Hormuz. There are no equivalent ports along the Gulf of Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz is extremely vulnerable to interdiction. Therefore, Iran is not a major maritime or naval power. It is and always has been a land power.

The center of Iran consists of two desert plateaus that are virtually uninhabited and uninhabitable. These are the Dasht-e Kavir, which stretches from Qom in the northwest nearly to the Afghan border, and the Dasht-e Lut, which extends south to Balochistan. The Dasht-e Kavir consists of a layer of salt covering thick mud, and it is easy to break through the salt layer and drown in the mud. It is one of the most miserable places on earth.

Iran’s population is concentrated in its mountains, not in its lowlands, as with other countries. That’s because its lowlands, with the exception of the southwest and the southeast (regions populated by non-Persians), are uninhabitable. Iran is a nation of 70 million mountain dwellers. Even its biggest city, Tehran, is in the foothills of towering mountains. Its population is in a belt stretching through the Zagros and Elbroz mountains on a line running from the eastern shore of the Caspian to the Strait of Hormuz. There is a secondary concentration of people to the northeast, centered on Mashhad. The rest of the country is lightly inhabited and almost impassable because of the salt-mud flats.

If you look carefully at a map of Iran, you can see that the western part of the
country — the Zagros Mountains — is actually a land bridge for southern Asia. It is the only path between the Persian Gulf in the south and the Caspian Sea in the north. Iran is the route connecting the Indian subcontinent to the Mediterranean Sea. But because of its size and geography, Iran is not a country that can be easily traversed, much less conquered.

The location of Iran’s oil fields is critical here, since oil remains its most important and most strategic export. Oil is to be found in three locations: The southwest is the major region, with lesser deposits along the Iraqi border in the north and one near Qom. The southwestern oil fields are an extension of the geological formation that created the oil fields in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Hence, the region east of the Shatt al-Arab is of critical importance to Iran. Iran has the third largest oil reserves in the world and is the world’s fourth largest producer. Therefore, one would expect it to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It isn’t.

Iran has the 28th largest economy in the world but ranks only 71st in per capita gross domestic product (as expressed in purchasing power). It ranks with countries like Belarus or Panama. Part of the reason is inefficiencies in the Iranian oil industry, the result of government policies. But there is a deeper geographic problem. Iran has a huge population mostly located in rugged mountains. Mountainous regions are rarely prosperous. The cost of transportation makes the development of industry difficult. Sparsely populated mountain regions are generally poor. Heavily populated mountain regions, when they exist, are much poorer.

Iran’s geography and large population make substantial improvements in its economic life difficult. Unlike underpopulated and less geographically challenged countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Iran cannot enjoy any shift in the underlying weakness of its economy brought on by higher oil prices and more production. The absence of inhabitable plains means that any industrial plant must develop in regions where the cost of infrastructure tends to undermine the benefits. Oil keeps Iran from sinking even deeper, but it alone cannot catapult Iran out of its condition.

The Broad Outline
Iran is a fortress. Surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by the ocean, with a wasteland at its center, Iran is extremely difficult to conquer. This was achieved once by the Mongols, who entered the country from the northeast. The Ottomans penetrated the Zagros Mountains and went northeast as far as the Caspian but made no attempt to move into the Persian heartland.

Iran is a mountainous country looking for inhabitable plains. There are none to the north, only more mountains and desert, or to the east, where Afghanistan’s infrastructure is no more inviting. To the south there is only ocean. What plains there are in the region lie to the west, in modern-day Iraq and historical Mesopotamia and Babylon. If Iran could dominate these plains, and combine them with its own population, they would be the foundation of Iranian power.

Indeed, these plains were the foundation of the Persian Empire. The Persians originated in the Zagros Mountains as a warrior people. They built an empire by conquering the plains in the Tigris and Euphrates basin. They did this slowly, over an extended period at a time when there were no demarcated borders and they faced little resistance to the west. While it was difficult for a lowland people to attack through mountains, it was easier for a mountain-based people to descend to the plains. This combination of population and fertile plains allowed the Persians to expand.

Iran’s attacking north or northwest into the Caucasus is impossible in force. The Russians, Turks and Iranians all ground to a halt along the current line in the 19th century; the country is so rugged that movement could be measured in yards rather than miles. Iran could attack northeast into Turkmenistan, but the land there is flat and brutal desert. The Iranians could move east into Afghanistan, but this would involve more mountain fighting for land of equally questionable value. Attacking west, into the Tigris and Euphrates river basin, and then moving to the Mediterranean, would seem doable. This was the path the Persians took when they created their empire and pushed all the way to Greece and Egypt.

In terms of expansion, the problem for Iran is its mountains. They are as effective a container as they are a defensive bulwark. Supporting an attacking force requires logistics, and pushing supplies through the Zagros in any great numbers is impossible. Unless the Persians can occupy and exploit Iraq, further expansion is impossible. In order to exploit Iraq, Iran needs a high degree of active cooperation from Iraqis. Otherwise, rather than converting Iraq’s wealth into political and military power, the Iranians would succeed only in being bogged down in pacifying the Iraqis.

In order to move west, Iran would require the active cooperation of conquered nations. Any offensive will break down because of the challenges posed by the mountains in moving supplies. This is why the Persians created the type of empire they did. They allowed conquered nations a great deal of autonomy, respected their culture and made certain that these nations benefited from the Persian imperial system. Once they left the Zagros, the Persians could not afford to pacify an empire. They needed the wealth at minimal cost. And this has been the limit on Persian/Iranian power ever since. Recreating a relationship with the inhabitants of the Tigris and Euphrates basin — today’s Iraq — is enormously difficult. Indeed, throughout most of history, the domination of the plains by Iran has been impossible. Other imperial powers — Alexandrian Greece, Rome, the Byzantines, Ottomans, British and Americans — have either seized the plains themselves or used them as a neutral buffer against the Persians.

Underlying the external problems of Iran is a severe internal problem. Mountains allow nations to protect themselves. Completely eradicating a culture is difficult. Therefore, most mountain regions of the world contain large numbers of national and ethnic groups that retain their own characteristics. This is commonplace in all mountainous regions. These groups resist absorption and annihilation. Although a Muslim state with a population that is 55 to 60 percent ethnically Persian, Iran is divided into a large number of ethnic groups. It is also divided between the vastly dominant Shia and the minority Sunnis, who are clustered in three areas of the country — the northeast, the northwest and the southeast. Any foreign power interested in Iran will use these ethnoreligious groups to create allies in Iran to undermine the power of the central government.

Thus, any Persian or Iranian government has as its first and primary strategic interest maintaining the internal integrity of the country against separatist groups. It is inevitable, therefore, for Iran to have a highly centralized government with an extremely strong security apparatus. For many countries, holding together its ethnic groups is important. For Iran it is essential because it has no room to retreat from its current lines and instability could undermine its entire security structure. Therefore, the Iranian central government will always face the problem of internal cohesion and will use its army and security forces for that purpose before any other.

Geopolitical Imperatives
For most countries, the first geographical imperative is to maintain internal cohesion. For Iran, it is to maintain secure borders, then secure the country internally. Without secure borders, Iran would be vulnerable to foreign powers that would continually try to manipulate its internal dynamics, destabilize its ruling regime and then exploit the resulting openings. Iran must first define the container and then control what it contains. Therefore, Iran’s geopolitical imperatives:

1. Control the Zagros and Elburz mountains. These constitute the Iranian heartland and the buffers against attacks from the west and north.

2. Control the mountains to the east of the Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut, from Mashhad to Zahedan to the Makran coast, protecting Iran’s eastern frontiers with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Maintain a line as deep and as far north and west as possible in the Caucasus to limit Turkish and Russian threats. These are the secondary lines.

3. Secure a line on the Shatt al-Arab in order to protect the western coast of Iran on the Persian Gulf.

4. Control the divergent ethnic and religious elements in this box.

5. Protect the frontiers against potential threats, particularly major powers from outside the region.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 15, 2008, 10:51:57 PM
Part Two

Iran has achieved four of the five basic goals. It has created secure frontiers and is in control of the population inside the country. The greatest threat against Iran is the one it has faced since Alexander the Great — that posed by major powers outside the region. Historically, before deep-water navigation, Iran was the direct path to India for any Western power. In modern times, the Zagros remain the eastern anchor of Turkish power. Northern Iran blocks Russian expansion. And, of course, Iranian oil reserves make Iran attractive to contemporary great powers.

There are two traditional paths into Iran. The northeastern region is vulnerable to Central Asian powers while the western approach is the most-often used (or attempted). A direct assault through the Zagros Mountains is not feasible, as Saddam Hussein discovered in 1980. However, manipulating the ethnic groups inside Iran is possible. The British, for example, based in Iraq, were able to manipulate internal political divisions in Iran, as did the Soviets, to the point that Iran virtually lost its national sovereignty during World War II.

The greatest threat to Iran in recent centuries has been a foreign power dominating Iraq —Ottoman or British — and extending its power eastward not through main force but through subversion and political manipulation. The view of the contemporary Iranian government toward the United States is that, during the 1950s, it assumed Britain’s role of using its position in Iraq to manipulate Iranian politics and elevate the shah to power.

The 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq was a terrific collision of two states, causing several million casualties on both sides. It also demonstrated two realities. The first is that a determined, well-funded, no-holds-barred assault from Mesopotamia against the Zagros Mountains will fail (albeit at an atrocious cost to the defender). The second is that, in the nation-state era, with fixed borders and standing armies, the logistical challenges posed by the Zagros make a major attack from Iran into Iraq equally impossible. There is a stalemate on that front. Nevertheless, from the Iranian point of view, the primary danger of Iraq is not direct attack but subversion. It is not only Iraq that worries them. Historically, Iranians also have been concerned about Russian manipulation and manipulation by the British and Russians through Afghanistan.

The Current Situation
For the Iranians, the current situation has posed a dangerous scenario similar to what they faced from the British early in the 20th century. The United States has occupied, or at least placed substantial forces, to the east and the west of Iran, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran is not concerned about these troops invading Iran. That is not a military possibility. Iran’s concern is that the United States will use these positions as platforms to foment ethnic dissent in Iran.

Indeed, the United States has tried to do this in several regions. In the southeast, in Balochistan, the Americans have supported separatist movements. It has also done this among the Arabs of Khuzestan, at the northern end of the Persian Gulf. And it has tried to manipulate the Kurds in northwestern Iran. (There is some evidence to suggest that the United States has used Azerbaijan as a launchpad to foment dissent among the Iranian Azeris in the northwestern part of the country.)

The Iranian counter to all this has several dimensions:

1. Maintain an extremely powerful and repressive security capability to counter these moves. In particular, focus on deflecting any intrusions in the Khuzestan region, which is not only the most physically vulnerable part of Iran but also where much of Iran’s oil reserves are located. This explains clashes such as the seizure of British sailors and constant reports of U.S. special operations teams in the region.

2. Manipulate ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq and Afghanistan to undermine the American positions there and divert American attention to defensive rather than offensive goals.

3. Maintain a military force capable of protecting the surrounding mountains so that major American forces cannot penetrate.

4. Move to create a nuclear force, very publicly, in order to deter attack in the long run and to give Iran a bargaining chip for negotiations in the short term.

The heart of Iranian strategy is as it has always been, to use the mountains as a fortress. So long as it is anchored in those mountains, it cannot be invaded. Alexander succeeded and the Ottomans had limited success (little more than breaching the Zagros), but even the Romans and British did not go so far as to try to use main force in the region. Invading and occupying Iran is not an option.

For Iran, its ultimate problem is internal tensions. But even these are under control, primarily because of Iran’s security system. Ever since the founding of the Persian Empire, the one thing that Iranians have been superb at is creating systems that both benefit other ethnic groups and punish them if they stray. That same mindset functions in Iran today in the powerful Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). (The Iranian military is configured mainly as an infantry force, with the regular army and IRGC ground forces together totaling about 450,000 troops, larger than all other service branches combined.)

Iran is, therefore, a self-contained entity. It is relatively poor, but it has superbly defensible borders and a disciplined central government with an excellent intelligence and internal security apparatus. Iran uses these same strengths to destabilize the American position (or that of any extraregional power) around it. Indeed, Iran is sufficiently secure that the positions of surrounding countries are more precarious than that of Iran. Iran is superb at low-cost, low-risk power projection using its covert capabilities. It is even better at blocking those of others. So long as the mountains are in Iranian hands, and the internal situation is controlled, Iran is a stable state, but one able to pose only a limited external threat.

The creation of an Iranian nuclear program serves two functions. First, if successful, it further deters external threats. Second, simply having the program enhances Iranian power. Since the consequences of a strike against these facilities are uncertain and raise the possibility of Iranian attempts at interdiction of oil from the Persian Gulf, the strategic risk to the attacker’s economy discourages attack. The diplomatic route of trading the program for regional safety and power becomes more attractive than an attack against a potential threat in a country with a potent potential counter.

Iran is secure from conceivable invasion. It enhances this security by using two tactics. First, it creates uncertainty as to whether it has an offensive nuclear capability. Second, it projects a carefully honed image of ideological extremism that makes it appear unpredictable. It makes itself appear threatening and unstable. Paradoxically, this increases the caution used in dealing with it because the main option, an air attack, has historically been ineffective without a follow-on ground attack. If just nuclear facilities are attacked and the attack fails, Iranian reaction is unpredictable and potentially disproportionate. Iranian posturing enhances the uncertainty. The threat of an air attack is deterred by Iran’s threat of an attack against sea-lanes. Such attacks would not be effective, but even a low-probability disruption of the world’s oil supply is a risk not worth taking.

As always, the Persians face a major power prowling at the edges of their mountains. The mountains will protect them from main force but not from the threat of destabilization. Therefore, the Persians bind their nation together through a combination of political accommodation and repression. The major power will eventually leave. Persia will remain so long as its mountains stand.
Title: WSJ: Something for Nothing
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 22, 2008, 08:40:14 AM
Iran Has Earned Nothing
July 22, 2008; Page A18
In its waning days, the Bush Administration seems to be veering toward a policy of détente with Iran. Recent moves include a face-to-face meeting with Iran over its nuclear program and the likelihood of reopening a diplomatic mission in Tehran for the first time since -- well, you remember. Iran responded to these gestures on the weekend by rebuffing the West's latest set of carrots while refusing once again to give up its uranium enrichment.

What precisely did Iran do to deserve the warm shoulder? Now as ever, Tehran underwrites and arms terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Gaza, and calls for Israel's destruction. Earlier this month, it tested long-range missiles capable of reaching southern Europe. As for getting that bomb, Iran has made steady progress this decade, enriching uranium in increasingly sophisticated centrifuges in violation of three U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The State Department is playing down any shift in its approach toward Iran. William Burns, the third most senior U.S. diplomat, merely sat in on the latest round of talks this weekend between the 5+1 group -- the permanent Security Council members and Germany -- and Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jailili. And yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, possibly trying to rebalance the latest tilt, threatened a return to sanctions absent a "serious answer" from Iran on giving up its enrichment program.

As for the establishment of a U.S. Interests Section in Tehran, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Thursday wouldn't say when a decision might be taken, adding, "We want to have people-to-people contact with the Iranian people." News reports claim the decision is all but made, pending approval by the Iranians.

Diplomacy has its uses, and the U.S. can do more to support the Iranian peoples' struggle to shake off their oppressive theocracy. Just how a U.S. Interests Section would achieve that is another question: The Iranian government maintains a tight grip on what foreign embassies can or cannot do, as British diplomats have learned after twice coming under attack the past three years.

But diplomacy also means getting something for giving something. That's not how it has worked here. Mr. Bush has conceded Iran's supposed "right" to build nuclear reactors, despite the fact that Tehran forfeited that right when the U.N. found it to be in material breach of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Mr. Bush has also offered to negotiate directly with Tehran on the sole condition -- the only "precondition," as Barack Obama refers to it -- that Iran stop enriching uranium. Yet Iran continues to enrich.

The Iranians understand that the fondest wish of America's foreign policy establishment is to strike what is often called a "grand bargain" that would lead to the normalization of relations between the two states. We would not be opposed to such a bargain, provided it required Iran to verifiably abandon all its nuclear programs, including the so-called civilian ones; stop supplying arms to militias that are killing our soldiers in Iraq; end its support for terrorist groups and hand over the suspects in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombings, in which 19 U.S. servicemen died.

Instead, Iran is having it both ways, behaving like a rogue state even as it is increasingly accorded the respect due a normal one. We understand that the U.S. has had diplomatic relations with other rotten regimes. But so long as U.S. diplomatic recognition of Iran remains a carrot in any negotiations with them, what's the point of surrendering it by stages now?

That's a question some of our friends in the neighborhood are asking themselves. We know from talks with Iraqis that they wonder what price they might pay for our accommodation of their ambitious, meddling neighbor. We know from our Israeli friends, too, that they sense the accommodationist drift of our Iran policy and are drawing conclusions of their own. Unlike the Bush Administration in its legacy-hunting days, inconstancy is not a policy option they can afford.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on July 22, 2008, 08:54:18 AM
Then again, this does give some political cover for a military strike as "we've now bent over backwards" to get them to comply, with no success.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 22, 2008, 11:32:21 AM
Although I fear it to be wrong, as I have been sharing here for some time now, Stratfor has not feared to go its own way with its analysis:


Geopolitical Diary: The Solid Footing of U.S.-Iranian Negotiations
July 21, 2008 | 2336 GMT
After a weekend of heated political haggling in Geneva between the United States and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had some tough words for Iran on Monday. Speaking from Abu Dhabi, Rice basically said that Iran needs to quit stalling, get serious about these negotiations and suspend uranium enrichment or else face another round of hard-hitting sanctions in two weeks. She added that the United States has already done enough to demonstrate that it is serious about these talks, casting doubt on whether Washington would again send a U.S. diplomat to the next meeting in Geneva to hear Iran’s response.

From Washington’s point of view, the U.S. government has already taken a number of concrete steps to create a political atmosphere conducive to negotiating with the Iranians. In the lead-up to the Geneva meeting, the United States floated the idea of setting up a diplomatic office in Tehran, backed away from its demand for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment in the “pre-negotiation” phase, delayed negotiations with the Iraqi government on keeping a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq and broke with long-standing policy by sending a U.S. diplomat to the meeting in Geneva.

As far as the United States is concerned, it is Iran’s turn to make concessions, beginning with the ever-so-touchy subject of uranium enrichment. But by refusing to budge on suspending uranium enrichment to further the talks, Iran made clear over the weekend that it is not about to be rushed with these negotiations. A number of critics of our analysis on U.S.-Iran negotiations are quick to claim that this is all just a stalling ploy by the Iranians to buy time to advance their nuclear program. That might be the case, but the Iranians don’t exactly have the luxury of stalling for time.

Iran cannot afford a stalemate in Iraq that gives the United States and Saudi Arabia ample time to bolster Iraq’s Sunnis and undercut Iran’s historic chance at consolidating Shiite influence in its Western neighbor. Moreover, the Iranians remember well the value of sorting out the tough issues with a weak U.S. administration in an election year rather than starting from scratch with a new and unpredictable government carrying a fresh political mandate come November. To this end, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a highly influential figure in the Iranian leadership, has stressed in recent interviews how Iran must learn from its past and not write off the war threats from Israel and the United States. Rafsanjani has drawn parallels between the current threat environment and the situation Iran faced during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, when the country was hit hard by a U.S.-backed Iraqi regime.

The hard part for both Iran and the United States comes now, and Iran is facing a strict timetable to sort out the nuclear issue and get a fair deal on Iraq.

But Iran has a very delicate matter on its hands. After decades of pursuing a foreign policy built on hostility toward the United States, Iran now needs to convince its public that now is a good idea to talk to the Great Satan. Likewise, the United States needs to demonstrate that it’s politically acceptable to talk to a member of the Axis of Evil. The United States is a bit further along in this public relations campaign. After the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report was released back in December 2006, the U.S. public warmed up to the idea of holding negotiations with Iran. In fact, the political debate has evolved to the point where the bulk of Americans are asking, “why aren’t we talking to the Iranians?”

In Iran, it gets a bit trickier. Living in a relatively closed society and constantly being subjected to stories of Iranian prowess and U.S. cowardice makes for a difficult transition. Indeed, there have already been clear signs of a power struggle within Iran’s ruling circles over whether Iran should move forward with these negotiations, with the main concern being how to open up to the West without having the clerics lose control of the regime.

Comforted by the fact that Washington has largely accepted that the clerical regime is here to stay, the pragmatic conservative faction in Iran appears to be winning in this debate with a public relations campaign already in full swing to prepare the Iranian public for a political rapprochement with the United States. The Iranian state-run press has been smothered lately with articles and op-eds discussing the merits of negotiating with the United States. A number of endorsements for this path have come from the senior clerical leadership, notably including Iran’s primary decision-maker, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In fact, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s vice president in charge of tourism caused quite the stir Monday when he stated “Iran is friends with the American and Israeli people” and that Iran sees “the Americans as one of the best nations in the world” — quite a long way from the traditional Iranian rhetoric of “Death to America”.

We can’t help but notice the uptick in these messages coming from the Iranian leadership. If Iran were simply jerking the Americans and the Europeans around in these negotiations to buy time for a nuclear program that has extremely low chances of developing into a real military threat in the first place, there would be little need to go through the trouble of opening up the public’s mind to re-engaging with the West. And while the U.S.-Iranian political jockeying and military posturing will intensify in the coming weeks, no matter how rocky the road, these negotiations are on solid footing.

Title: Mystery Explosion
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 25, 2008, 09:00:45 PM
Mystery explosions point to Iran's secret arms shipments to terrorists

For an organisation that prides itself on being a well-run administrative machine, the leadership of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is having a rather testing time. It’s not just last Saturday’s mysterious explosion in a suburb of Tehran that killed 15 people that is causing the leadership sleepless nights, although the nationwide news black-out imposed immediately afterwards does suggest the Revolutionary Guards, the storm troops of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, are rattled.

Details are only now starting to reach the outside world, and it looks increasingly like sabotage was responsible for devastating a military convoy as it travelled through Khavarshahar. The company responsible for moving the equipment, LTK, is owned by the Revolutionary Guards and is suspected of being involved in shipping arms to Lebanon’s Hizbollah Shia Muslim militia, which is trained and funded by Tehran.

The Revolutionary Guards’ arms shipments to Lebanon and its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia are usually shrouded in such secrecy that only a few senior members of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government are briefed in advance. As the international crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme deepens, the Revolutionary Guards have intensified their efforts to supply regional allies with military hardware so that, in the event of Tehran becoming involved in an armed confrontation with the West, Iran can respond by opening a number of fronts in the Middle East and beyond.

The need to keep the arms build-up secret would explain the Revolutionary Guards’ decision to ban the Iranian media from reporting the explosion, even though it was heard throughout the capital. But what really concerns Iran’s leadership is that the incident is the latest in a long line of unexplained explosions.

In May, officials blamed British and American agents for an explosion at a mosque in Shiraz that had just finished staging an exhibition of Iran’s latest military hardware. Last year more than a dozen Iranian engineers were killed while trying to fit a chemical warhead to a missile in Syria.

A few months earlier, a train reported to be carrying military supplies to Syria was derailed by another mysterious explosion in northern Turkey. It is highly unlikely that these incidents are unrelated, which has only served to deepen the mood of fear and suspicion gripping the Revolutionary Guards’ leadership.

Tensions have been running high in Tehran since Seymour Hersh, the respected American investigative journalist, revealed in the New Yorker magazine last month that President George W Bush had authorised up to $400 million to fund a major escalation in covert operations to destabilise the regime.

Having contended with Iran’s attempts to undermine the Iraqi government over the past five years, British and American military commanders are more than happy to undertake covert operations in Iran, and there have been unconfirmed reports that special forces are operating undercover in the country.

Western diplomats and nuclear inspectors who frequently travel to Tehran as part of the international effort to persuade the Iranians to halt their uranium enrichment activities report that a sense of paranoia appears to have gripped the regime in recent months.
“There has certainly been a change of mood since the start of the year,” a Vienna-based official told me this week. “In the past they always appeared very self-confident and sure-footed in their dealings with foreign officials. Now they come across as very suspicious, and watch our every move.”

Tehran’s changed political atmosphere might be explained by the fact that President Ahmadinejad and his senior officials realise they are running out of time in their negotiations with the West. After more than four years of painstaking talks with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran is continuing to enrich uranium at its underground facility at Natanz, a clear breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Even senior officials at the agency, who have gone out of their way to accommodate the Iranians’ concerns, have little confidence that the Iranians have any intention of reaching a compromise. “All they seem interested in is extending the talks as long as possible while all the time they continue with their uranium enrichment programme,” said an official close to the talks. “Their entire strategy appears to be based on playing for time.”

Iran has just another week to respond to the latest proposal put forward by the West at last weekend’s meeting with Iranian officials in Geneva, in which Iran was offered economic reconstruction in return for halting the enrichment programme.

Iran is intensifying efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of Hizbollah in southern Lebanon in preparation for a possible attack on Israel. Revolutionary Guards are keen to strengthen its leadership following the assassination of Imad Mugniyeh, Hizbollah’s head of security, in the Syrian capital by Israeli agents last February.

Mugniyeh, the terrorist behind suicide truck bomb attacks on American and French troops in the 1980s, played a key role in building up Hizbollah’s military strength, which proved to be highly effective during its 2006 attack against Israeli forces in southern Lebanon. Tehran wants to appoint one of its commanders as a replacement, but has received unexpected resistance from Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general. Nasrallah insists Mugniyeh’s replacement must come from within Hizbollah’s ranks. Suddenly nothing seems to be going the Revolutionary Guards’ way.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on July 27, 2008, 10:15:14 PM
'US talks to Iran to legitimize attack'
Jul. 27, 2008

Recent talks the United States held with Iran are aimed at creating legitimacy for a potential attack against Iranian nuclear facilities, defense officials speculated on Sunday as Defense Minister Ehud Barak headed to Washington for talks with senior administration officials.

Barak will travel to Washington and New York and will hold talks with his counterpart Robert Gates, Vice President Dick Cheney, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Michael Mullen, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

Officials said it was likely that President George W. Bush would join the meeting between Barak and Hadley. On Wednesday, Barak will fly to New York for a brief meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon.

Barak's departure to the US came as IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi returned to Israel on Sunday from a week-long visit to the US as Mullen's guest. Ashkenazi held talks with Cheney, Hadley and other senior officials with a focus on the Iranian nuclear program.

"There is a lot of strategic thinking concerning Iran going on right now but no one has yet to make a decision what to do," said a top IDF officer, involved in the dialogue between Israel and the US. "We are still far away from the point where military officers are poring over maps together planning an operation."

In recent weeks, Mullen has said publicly that he is opposed to military action against Iran which would open a "third front" for the US military which is currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Barak's talks in the US come a little over a week after the Bush administration sent its number three diplomat to Geneva to participate in European Union talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

The move led to reports that the US was changing its isolation tactic vis-à-vis Iran but Israeli defense officials speculated Sunday that the move was really a ploy to buy international support in the event that Bush decides to attack Iran in his last months in office.

"This way they will be able to say they tried everything," one official speculated. "This increases America's chances of gaining more public support domestically as well as the support of European nations which are today opposed to military action."

Diplomatic officials have speculated that the Iran-US talks were also connected to the presidential elections.

According to the IDF officer, the frequent meetings between Israel and the US in recent weeks - Mullen was in Israel in June - is a sign of the strong ties between the two countries as well as the mutual interest both take in different regional issues such as Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas and Syria.

This article can also be read at /servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331116435&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 28, 2008, 09:21:19 AM
Well, , , maybe , , , but to me it reads like Bush-Rice have drawn yet another line in the sand which will be disrespected as well.
Iran has become the main thoroughfare for jihadist traffic leaving Iraq for Pakistan’s tribal belt, a state-owned newspaper in Afghanistan said on Sunday. An editorial in the daily Anis described the Shiite Islamic republic as a “tunnel for terrorists” to Waziristan. “The people of Afghanistan can’t remain silent against such Iranian behaviors since this country sends those individuals to Afghanistan who kill and murder Afghans,” Anis said. The paper went on to say that “Iran under present conditions has become as the easiest entry for terrorists from the Middle East to Afghanistan and the [Afghan] government has to blockade this tunnel by whatever means.”

While most of the world’s attention is on the Pakistani factor in the Afghan jihadist insurgency, there is not much focus on Iran’s role in its eastern neighbor — even though the Iranians enjoy a considerable amount of influence (linguistic, ethnic, cultural, financial, etc.) in Afghanistan.

It should not be forgotten that Tehran provided significant cooperation to Washington in the latter’s move to overthrow the Taliban regime in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But even though it was working with the United States to oust the Taliban from power, Iran reportedly allowed al-Qaeda members fleeing the U.S. air assault on Afghanistan to enter Iran and remain in safe-houses maintained by the country’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Many of those said to be protected in Iran were senior al Qaeda leaders such as former al Qaeda military chief Seif al-Adel, its ex-spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith and Osama bin Laden’s son Saad bin Laden (all of whom are likely still in Iranian “custody”). The founder of the jihadist movement in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also reportedly entered Iraq from Iran, where he sought refuge after fleeing the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.

Iran has no love for the Taliban or al-Qaeda. On the contrary, they are bitter sectarian and ideological rivals. This rivalry notwithstanding, Tehran maintains complex relationships with these jihadist actors in order to advance its national security interests. Tehran hopes to be able to use them as bargaining chips in any final settlement with the United States.

But before it reaches that stage, Tehran is still routing and rerouting jihadist traffic to pressure the United States and become a player. In between the two regime changes of 2001 and 2003, it was in Iran’s interest to facilitate jihadist relocation into Iraq to force Washington’s hand. But circumstances have changed drastically since then.

The Iranians know that with the situation in Iraq moving toward a settlement of sorts, U.S. attention is returning to Afghanistan. Tehran thus wants to be able to play a major role there as well, especially at a time when the principal U.S. ally in the Afghan theater, Pakistan, is becoming increasingly unreliable. Therefore, Iran is likely facilitating the flow of jihadists in the opposite direction.

It should be noted that it was only a few days ago that Iranian Vice-President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh (also the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization), in reference to U.S.-Iranian talks on its controversial nuclear issue, said that if substantive negotiations start, “many important problems will be resolved: the problem of a stable Middle East, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and the problem of the high oil price.”

Washington and its wealthy Arab allies have created a bulwark to contain Tehran’s regional ambitions in the Middle East. But Iran takes comfort from the fact that it can still project power into its western and eastern neighbors. Iranian national security policy concerning Iraq is already in an advanced stage, which means the Persian state will be devoting more of its energies to enhance its standing in Afghanistan — at a time when very high-level back-channel meetings between the Bush administration and Iran’s clerical regime are under way.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on July 28, 2008, 05:30:11 PM

I'm hoping i'm right, though if I were betting i'd tend to put my money on us not acting until it's too late.  :cry:
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: HUSS on July 29, 2008, 07:36:04 PM
Iran: Sixteen Christian converts arrested

Tehran, 29 July (AKI) - Sixteen Iranians who converted from Islam to Christianity were arrested on Tuesday in Malakshahr, on the outskirts of the central Iranian city of Isfahan.

The six women, eight men and two adolescents who were arrested were assisting in a conversion ceremony and baptism of three new members of the church at a private house that had been transformed into an evangelical church.

The owners of the home, an elderly couple, were allegedly beaten up before they were locked up in an unmarked lorry.

In April, 10 Christian converts were arrested in Shiraz.

The official evangelical churches in Isfahan received orders not to allow any Muslims to attend their ceremonies and not to facilitate in any way the conversions.

Iranian law does not stipulate any punishment for those who convert from Islam to other faiths, even if the converts are subject to repression.

A few months ago, the government presented a bill which is currently being discussed in parliament, to include in the penal code the crime of "Ertedad" which is the act of abandoning the Muslim faith.

If the parliament does approve the law, the punishment for abandoning Islam will be the death penalty.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: HUSS on July 30, 2008, 09:50:42 AM
Iran Plans Nuclear Strike


U.S. Intel: Iran Plans Nuclear Strike on U.S.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008 9:00 AM

By: Kenneth R. Timmerman

Iran has carried out missile tests for what could be a plan for a nuclear strike on the United States, the head of a national security panel has warned.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee and in remarks to a private conference on missile defense over the weekend hosted by the Claremont Institute, Dr. William Graham warned that the U.S. intelligence community “doesn’t have a story” to explain the recent Iranian tests.

One group of tests that troubled Graham, the former White House science adviser under President Ronald Reagan, were successful efforts to launch a Scud missile from a platform in the Caspian Sea.

“They’ve got [test] ranges in Iran which are more than long enough to handle Scud launches and even Shahab-3 launches,” Dr. Graham said. “Why would they be launching from the surface of the Caspian Sea? They obviously have not explained that to us.”

Another troubling group of tests involved Shahab-3 launches where the Iranians "detonated the warhead near apogee, not over the target area where the thing would eventually land, but at altitude,” Graham said. “Why would they do that?”

Graham chairs the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, a blue-ribbon panel established by Congress in 2001.

The commission examined the Iranian tests “and without too much effort connected the dots,” even though the U.S. intelligence community previously had failed to do so, Graham said.

“The only plausible explanation we can find is that the Iranians are figuring out how to launch a missile from a ship and get it up to altitude and then detonate it,” he said. “And that’s exactly what you would do if you had a nuclear weapon on a Scud or a Shahab-3 or other missile, and you wanted to explode it over the United States.”

The commission warned in a report issued in April that the United States was at risk of a sneak nuclear attack by a rogue nation or a terrorist group designed to take out our nation’s critical infrastructure.

"If even a crude nuclear weapon were detonated anywhere between 40 kilometers to 400 kilometers above the earth, in a split-second it would generate an electro-magnetic pulse [EMP] that would cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure," the report warned.

While not causing immediate civilian casualties, the near-term impact on U.S. society would dwarf the damage of a direct nuclear strike on a U.S. city.

“The first indication [of such an attack] would be that the power would go out, and some, but not all, the telecommunications would go out. We would not physically feel anything in our bodies,” Graham said.

As electric power, water and gas delivery systems failed, there would be “truly massive traffic jams,” Graham added, since modern automobiles and signaling systems all depend on sophisticated electronics that would be disabled by the EMP wave.

“So you would be walking. You wouldn’t be driving at that point,” Graham said. “And it wouldn’t do any good to call the maintenance or repair people because they wouldn’t be able to get there, even if you could get through to them.”

The food distribution system also would grind to a halt as cold-storage warehouses stockpiling perishables went offline. Even warehouses equipped with backup diesel generators would fail, because “we wouldn’t be able to pump the fuel into the trucks and get the trucks to the warehouses,” Graham said.

The United States “would quickly revert to an early 19th century type of country.” except that we would have 10 times as many people with ten times fewer resources, he said.

“Most of the things we depend upon would be gone, and we would literally be depending on our own assets and those we could reach by walking to them,” Graham said.

America would begin to resemble the 2002 TV series, “Jeremiah,” which depicts a world bereft of law, infrastructure, and memory.

In the TV series, an unspecified virus wipes out the entire adult population of the planet. In an EMP attack, the casualties would be caused by our almost total dependence on technology for everything from food and water, to hospital care.

Within a week or two of the attack, people would start dying, Graham says.

“People in hospitals would be dying faster than that, because they depend on power to stay alive. But then it would go to water, food, civil authority, emergency services. And we would end up with a country with many, many people not surviving the event.”

Asked just how many Americans would die if Iran were to launch the EMP attack it appears to be preparing, Graham gave a chilling reply.

“You have to go back into the 1800s to look at the size of population” that could survive in a nation deprived of mechanized agriculture, transportation, power, water, and communication.

“I’d have to say that 70 to 90 percent of the population would not be sustainable after this kind of attack,” he said.

America would be reduced to a core of around 30 million people — about the number that existed in the decades after America’s independence from Great Britain.

The modern electronic economy would shut down, and America would most likely revert to “an earlier economy based on barter,” the EMP commission’s report on Critical National Infrastructure concluded earlier this year.

In his recent congressional testimony, Graham revealed that Iranian military journals, translated by the CIA at his commission’s request, “explicitly discuss a nuclear EMP attack that would gravely harm the United States.”

Furthermore, if Iran launched its attack from a cargo ship plying the commercial sea lanes off the East coast — a scenario that appears to have been tested during the Caspian Sea tests — U.S. investigators might never determine who was behind the attack. Because of the limits of nuclear forensic technology, it could take months. And to disguise their traces, the Iranians could simply decide to sink the ship that had been used to launch it, Graham said.

Several participants in last weekend’s conference in Dearborn, Mich., hosted by the conservative Claremont Institute argued that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was thinking about an EMP attack when he opined that “a world without America is conceivable.”

In May 2007, then Undersecretary of State John Rood told Congress that the U.S. intelligence community estimates that Iran could develop an ICBM capable of hitting the continental United States by 2015.

But Iran could put a Scud missile on board a cargo ship and launch from the commercial sea lanes off America’s coasts well before then.

The only thing Iran is lacking for an effective EMP attack is a nuclear warhead, and no one knows with any certainty when that will occur. The latest U.S. intelligence estimate states that Iran could acquire the fissile material for a nuclear weapon as early as 2009, or as late as 2015, or possibly later.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld first detailed the “Scud-in-a-bucket” threat during a briefing in Huntsville, Ala., on Aug. 18, 2004.

While not explicitly naming Iran, Rumsfeld revealed that “one of the nations in the Middle East had launched a ballistic missile from a cargo vessel. They had taken a short-range, probably Scud missile, put it on a transporter-erector launcher, lowered it in, taken the vessel out into the water, peeled back the top, erected it, fired it, lowered it, and covered it up. And the ship that they used was using a radar and electronic equipment that was no different than 50, 60, 100 other ships operating in the immediate area.”

Iran’s first test of a ship-launched Scud missile occurred in spring 1998, and was mentioned several months later in veiled terms by the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, a blue-ribbon panel also known as the Rumsfeld Commission.

I was the first reporter to mention the Iran sea-launched missile test in an article appearing in the Washington Times in May 1999.

Intelligence reports on the launch were “well known to the White House but have not been disseminated to the appropriate congressional committees,” I wrote. Such a missile “could be used in a devastating stealth attack against the United States or Israel for which the United States has no known or planned defense.”

Few experts believe that Iran can be deterred from launching such an attack by the threat of massive retaliation against Iran. They point to a December 2001 statement by former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who mulled the possibility of Israeli retaliation after an Iranian nuclear strike.

“The use of an atomic bomb against Israel would destroy Israel completely, while [the same] against the Islamic only would cause damages. Such a scenario is not inconceivable,” Rafsanjani said at the time.

Rep. Trent Franks, R, Ariz., plans to introduce legislation next week that would require the Pentagon to lay the groundwork for an eventual military strike against Iran, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and EMP capability.

“An EMP attack on America would send us back to the horse and buggy era — without the horse and buggy,” he told the Claremont Institute conference on Saturday. “If you’re a terrorist, this is your ultimate goal, your ultimate asymmetric weapon.”

Noting Iran’s recent sea-launched and mid-flight warhead detonation tests, Rep. Franks concluded, “They could do it — either directly or anonymously by putting some freighter out there on the ocean.”

The only possible deterrent against Iran is the prospect of failure, Dr. Graham and other experts agreed. And the only way the United States could credibly threaten an Iranian missile strike would be to deploy effective national missile defenses.

“It’s well known that people don’t go on a diet until they’ve had a heart attack,” said Claremont Institute president Brian T. Kennedy. “And we as a nation are having a heart attack” when it comes to the threat of an EMP attack from Iran.

“As of today, we have no defense against such an attack. We need space-based missile defenses to protect against an EMP attack,” he told Newsmax.

Rep. Franks said he remains surprised at how partisan the subject of space-based missile defenses remain. “Nuclear missiles don’t discriminate on party lines when they land,” he said.

Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, a long-standing champion of missile defense, told the Claremont conference on Friday that Sen. Obama has opposed missile defense tooth and nail and as president would cut funding for these programs dramatically.

“Senator Obama has been quoted as saying, ‘I don’t agree with a missile defense system,’ and that we can cut $10 billion of the research out — never mind, as I say, that the entire budget is $9.6 billion, or $9.3 billion,” Kyl said.

Like Franks, Kyl believes that the only way to eventually deter Iran from launching an EMP attack on the United States is to deploy robust missile defense systems, including space-based interceptors.

The United States “needs a missile defense that is so strong, in all the different phases we need to defend against . . . that countries will decide it’s not worth coming up against us,” Kyl said.

“That’s one of the things that defeated the Soviet Union. That’s one of the ways we can deal with these rogue states . . . and also the way that we can keep countries that are not enemies today, but are potential enemies, from developing capabilities to challenge us. “
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on July 30, 2008, 01:11:42 PM
Eh, i'm a bit skeptical of the newsmax EMP article.
Title: Bolton: Diplomats Dither
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 05, 2008, 10:41:11 AM
While Diplomats Dither,
Iran Builds Nukes
August 5, 2008; Page A19

This weekend, yet another "deadline" passed for Iran to indicate it was seriously ready to discuss ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Like so many other deadlines during these five years of European-led negotiations, this one died quietly, with Brussels diplomats saying that no one seriously expected any real work on a Saturday.

The fact that the Europeans are right -- this latest deadline is not fundamentally big news -- is precisely the problem with their negotiations, and the Bush administration's acquiescence in that effort.

The rationality of continued Western negotiations with Iran depends critically on two assumptions: that Iran is far enough away from having deliverable nuclear weapons that we don't incur excessive risks by talking; and that by talking we don't materially impede the option to use military force. Implicit in the latter case is the further assumption that the military option is static -- that it remains equally viable a year from now as it is today.

Neither assumption is correct. Can we believe that if diplomacy fails we can still take military action "in time" to prevent Iranian nuclear weapons? "Just in time" nonproliferation assumes a level of intelligence certainty concerning Iran's nuclear program that recent history should manifestly caution us against.

Every day that goes by allows Iran to increase the threat it poses, and the viability of the military option steadily declines over time. There are a number of reasons why this is so.

First, while the European-led negotiations proceed, Iran continues both to convert uranium from a solid (uranium oxide, U3O8, also called yellowcake) to a gas (uranium hexafluoride, UF6) at its uranium conversion facility at Isfahan. Although it is a purely chemical procedure, conversion is technologically complex and poses health and safety risks.

As Isfahan's continuing operations increase both Iran's UF6 inventory and its technical expertise, however, the impact of destroying the facility diminishes. Iran is building a stockpile of UF6 that it can subsequently enrich even while it reconstructs Isfahan after an attack, or builds a new conversion facility elsewhere.

Second, delay permits Iran to increase its stock of low-enriched uranium (LEU) -- that is, UF6 gas in which the U235 isotope concentration (the form of uranium critical to nuclear reactions either in reactors or weapons) is raised from its natural level of 0.7% to between 3% and 5%.

As its LEU stockpile increases, so too does Tehran's capacity to take the next step, and enrich it to weapons-grade concentrations of over 90% U235 (highly-enriched uranium, or HEU). Some unfamiliar with nuclear matters characterize the difference in LEU-HEU concentration levels as huge. The truth is far different. Enriching natural uranium by centrifuges to LEU consumes approximately 70% of the work and time required to enrich it to HEU.

Accordingly, destroying Iran's enrichment facility at Natanz does not eliminate its existing enriched uranium (LEU), which the IAEA estimated in May 2008 to be approximately half what is needed for one nuclear weapon. Iran is thus more than two-thirds of the way to weapons-grade uranium with each kilogram of uranium it enriches to LEU levels. Moreover, as the LEU inventory grows, so too does the risk of a military strike hitting one or more UF6 storage tanks, releasing potentially substantial amounts of radioactive gas into the atmosphere.

Third, although we cannot know for sure, every indication is that Iran is dispersing its nuclear facilities to unknown locations, "hardening" against air strikes the ones we already know about, and preparing more deeply buried facilities in known locations for future operations. That means that the prospects for success against, say, the enrichment facilities at Natanz are being reduced.

Fourth, Iran is clearly increasing its defensive capabilities by purchasing Russian S-300 antiaircraft systems (also known as the SA-20) directly or through Belarus. In late July, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and his spokesman contradicted Israeli contentions that the new antiaircraft systems would be operational this year. Assuming the Pentagon is correct, its own assessment on timing simply enhances the argument for Israel striking sooner rather than later.

Fifth, Iran continues to increase the offensive capabilities of surrogates like Syria and Hezbollah, both of which now have missile capabilities that can reach across Israel, as well as threaten U.S. troops and other U.S. friends and allies in the region. It may well be Syria and Hezbollah that retaliate initially after an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, thus making further strikes against Iran more problematic, at least in the short run.

Iran is pursuing two goals simultaneously, both of which it is comfortably close to achieving. The first -- to possess all the capabilities necessary for a deliverable nuclear weapon -- is now almost certainly impossible to stop diplomatically. Thus, Iran's second objective becomes critical: to make the risks of a military strike against its program too high, and to make the likelihood of success in fracturing the program too low. Time favors Iran in achieving these goals. U.S. and European diplomats should consider this while waiting by the telephone for Iran to call.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
Title: Iran's "satellite launch"
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 20, 2008, 10:52:35 AM
What Tehran claimed was a successful launch of a “dummy” satellite Aug. 16 is being disputed by Washington — even as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offers to help other Muslim countries launch their own satellites. Despite the likely failure of the launch, the emergence of a multiple-stage satellite-launch vehicle in Iran is a significant event for both Tehran and Washington.

Iran’s claim that it successfully launched a “dummy” satellite Aug. 16 aboard its Safir Omid (“Envoy of Hope”) satellite-launch vehicle (SLV) was followed by two significant developments only days later. On Aug. 18, Tehran offered to help other Muslim nations put their own satellites into orbit, while the United States reported that the Iranian launch failed when the SLV’s second stage began to behave erratically. While the Safir Omid may indeed prove to have limited capability, the Iranian launch attempt was a noteworthy event nonetheless.

Related Links
The Iranian Missile Program
Iran: The Latest Satellite Launch
United States: The Future of Ballistic Missile Defense
Stratfor has long held that the ability to launch a satellite should not be considered beyond the reach of Iran’s scientists and engineers — an assertion we base largely on the North Korean example. Indeed, cooperation between Tehran and Pyongyang in missile development has been extensive, which means that the former can benefit significantly from the latter’s experience and design work. Based on this cooperation, Tehran already has the raw tools at its disposal to potentially achieve a successful launch.

Both countries’ missile programs rely heavily on the Soviet Scud design, which is itself based largely on the World War II German V-2, the world’s first true ballistic missile. The Scud design heritage is clearly evident in the base of the Iranian SLV’s first stage, where both the external fins (visible in the photo below, marked with Roman numerals) and the mountings for the exhaust vanes are evident.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being shown the Safir Omid satellite-launch vehicleThe width of the SLV suggests that its first stage is based on Iran’s Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile, and the distinctively tall height and slenderness that characterize the Iranian SLV is remarkably similar to the North Korean Taepodong-1. The main difference in outward appearance is the width of the second stage.

(click image to enlarge)
This height and slenderness is generally considered to be inefficient by Western engineers. But the Scud is what Pyongyang and Tehran have to work with. Although the design has certainly been stretched further than it ever should have been, Pyongyang very nearly demonstrated in 1998 that it would get the job done.

The payload capacity, in all likelihood, is extremely limited — Iran is likely toying with the capability to orbit a radio transmitter smaller than Sputnik. What’s more, Iranian Scud-extrapolations do not appear to have demonstrated a meaningful level of accuracy to be useful as a military weapon. The limitations of the old Scud design also place upper limits on accuracy. Even if the missile could carry a larger payload, it is unlikely that the payload could be delivered with sufficient accuracy to threaten a specific target smaller than a major urban area. (And Iran’s ability to build a crude nuclear device, much less a weapon capable of being mounted on such a missile, remains in question.)

But SLVs have profound implications for a country’s long-range ballistic missile program. It is now clear that Tehran is tinkering with what appears to be a workable design based on North Korean experience that incorporates a second stage. Although the United States claims the second stage performed erratically, this may suggest that separation and ignition were indeed achieved — a significant step.

Iran has more or less hit a wall in terms of the distance it can cover with a single-stage ballistic missile. To further extend its reach, it must master missile staging. If it eventually succeeds in doing so, Tehran will demonstrate that capability to its domestic audience in the form of a nationalism-inspiring SLV. It will also give credence to Washington’s ballistic missile defense efforts in Europe.
Title: Teheran in the Caucasus
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 18, 2008, 11:44:55 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Iranian Diplomacy in the Caucasus
September 18, 2008
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on Wednesday visited Georgia, where he met with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. During the visit, Mottaki told the Georgian leader that Tehran was closely observing the ongoing events in the Caucasus and that his country wants stability and security in the region restored. The Iranian foreign minister also said that his government was in the process of offering solutions to various regional actors in the hopes of normalizing the regional situation.

Mottaki’s visit to Tbilisi comes a day after a meeting with his Armenian counterpart in Tehran and two days after talks with his German counterpart in Berlin. On Sept. 13, Mottaki held talks with Russian leaders in Moscow and then flew to Azerbaijan to confer with officials in Baku. This flurry of diplomatic activity on the part of the Iranians underscores Tehran’s deep interests in the Caucasus.

After seeing Turkey’s moves in the region in the wake of the Georgian crisis, the Iranians do not want to be left out of the game. The Iranian ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural ties to the Caucasus go back centuries — long before the Ottomans took control of the Caucasus, Persian empires ruled major parts of the area.

We have talked about how a resurgent Russia presents Iran with an opening to extract concessions from the United States in Iraq and on the nuclear issue. In this regard, Tehran’s calculus is that a Washington wanting to counter a revived Kremlin would be eager to reach a settlement on Iraq to free itself for dealings with Moscow.

Iran’s cautious behavior toward Russia, however, suggests that Tehran is not ready to jump on the Russian bandwagon. There are three key reasons for this.

First, in order for Iran to reach its goals in terms of Iraq, the nuclear issue, and its own international rehabilitation, it needs to work with the United States. From the Iranian point of view, Russia is a means to an end and not a substitute for the United States.

Second, in the past Russia has used Iran for its own strategic purposes. Tehran is quite disappointed that Moscow has not followed through on any of its promises — whether with regard to security guarantees, weapons sales or even the failure to complete Iran’s first nuclear power plant (for which the Iranians have already paid).

Third, and most important, is that a Russia imposing itself on the Caucasus poses a long-term security threat to Iran’s northern borders. After all, it was not too long ago that the Soviet Union under Stalin invaded Iran. Hence, Iranian moves toward regional diplomacy are largely designed to ensure that a Russian resurgence can be kept at tolerable levels.

But the Turks have the lead in this arena, which raises the question of what the Iranians hope to gain from their attempts to play a role in the Caucasus. The best option for Iran would be to cooperate with Turkey toward the common goal of containing Russia. There is also the additional potential benefit of connecting with the United States via the Turks in the process, not to mention the potential energy links Iran could build to connect to Europe through the Turks.

There are, however, a number of obstacles that prevent Turkish-Iranian cooperation from materializing. To start, Iran would not want to irk Russia at a time when Tehran is still not getting a deal from the United States. The Turks are in a much more comfortable position to risk angering the Russians but the Iranians do not have that luxury. Ankara is the world’s 18th-largest economy and a member of NATO, while Iran has very few friends and is reeling from economic sanctions.

Another reason why Tehran cannot play much of a role in the Caucasus is that its only anchor in the region is Armenia, and that is a relationship of expediency. While the Turks and the Azerbaijanis are moving toward a rapprochement with the Armenians, it is unlikely that they will want to allow Iran — a historical competitor for regional influence (especially for the Turks) — to establish a foothold in the region. Essentially, Iran faces sufficient arrestors blocking its path to becoming a regional player in the Caucasus, which is not unlike the situation that it faces in the Middle East where wealthy Sunni Arab states are reining in its regional ambitions.

Regardless of the role it will or will not play in the Caucasus, Iranian moves in the region highlight a very critical element in Iranian foreign policy vis-a-vis Russia. The Islamic republic is not prepared to align with Russia in Moscow’s efforts to reassert itself on the global scene. This is a critical weakness that the United States can exploit to its advantage in countering both Iranian and Russian moves.
Title: WSJ: Everyone's Worry
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 22, 2008, 10:48:26 AM
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the United Nations in New York this week. Don't expect an honest update from him on his country's nuclear program. Iran is now edging closer to being armed with nuclear weapons, and it continues to develop a ballistic-missile capability.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Such developments may be overshadowed by our presidential election, but the challenge Iran poses is very real and not a partisan matter. We may have different political allegiances and worldviews, yet we share a common concern -- Iran's drive to be a nuclear state. We believe that Iran's desire for nuclear weapons is one of the most urgent issues facing America today, because even the most conservative estimates tell us that they could have nuclear weapons soon.

A nuclear-armed Iran would likely destabilize an already dangerous region that includes Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, and pose a direct threat to America's national security. For this reason, Iran's nuclear ambitions demand a response that will compel Iran's leaders to change their behavior and come to understand that they have more to lose than to gain by going nuclear.

Tehran claims that it is enriching uranium only for peaceful energy uses. These claims exceed the boundaries of credibility and science. Iran's enrichment program is far larger than reasonably necessary for an energy program. In past inspections of Iranian nuclear sites, U.N. inspectors found rare elements that only have utility in nuclear weapons and not in a peaceful nuclear energy program. Iran's persistent rejection of offers from outside energy suppliers or private bidders to supply it with nuclear fuel suggests it has a motive other than energy in developing its nuclear program. Tehran's continual refusal to answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about this troublesome part of its nuclear program suggests that it has something to hide.

The world rightfully doubts Tehran's assertion that it needs nuclear energy and is enriching nuclear materials for strictly peaceful purposes. Iran has vast supplies of inexpensive oil and natural gas, and its construction of nuclear reactors and attempts to perfect the nuclear fuel cycle are exceedingly costly. There is no legitimate economic reason for Iran to pursue nuclear energy.

Iran is a deadly and irresponsible world actor, employing terrorist organizations including Hezbollah and Hamas to undermine existing regimes and to foment conflict. Emboldened by the bomb, Iran will become more inclined to sponsor terror, threaten our allies, and support the most deadly elements of the Iraqi insurgency.

Tehran's development of a nuclear bomb could serve as the "starter's gun" in a new and potentially deadly arms race in the most volatile region of the world. Many believe that Iran's neighbors would feel forced to pursue the bomb if it goes nuclear.

By continuing to act in open defiance of its treaty obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, Iran rejects the inspections mandated by the IAEA and flouts multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions.

At the same time, Iranian leaders declare that Israel is illegitimate and should not exist. President Ahmadinejad specifically calls for Israel to be "wiped off from the map," while seeking the weapons to do so. Such behavior casts Iran as an international outlier. No one can reasonably suggest that a nuclear-armed Iran will suddenly honor international treaty obligations, acknowledge Israel's right to exist, or cease efforts to undermine the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is also the chief spokesman for a regime that represses religious and ethnic minorities, women, students, labor groups and homosexuals. A government willing to persecute its own people can only be viewed as even more dangerous if armed with nuclear weapons.

Finally, our economy has suffered under the burden of rising oil prices. Iran is strategically located on a key choke point in the world's energy supply chain -- the Strait of Hormuz. No one can suggest that a nuclear Iran would hesitate to use its enhanced leverage to affect oil prices, or would work to ease the burden on the battered economies of the world's oil importers.

Facing such a threat, Americans must put aside their political differences and send a clear and united message that a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable.

That is why the four of us, along with other policy advocates from across the political spectrum, have formed the nonpartisan group United Against Nuclear Iran. Everyone must understand the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran and mobilize the power of a united American public in opposition. As part of the United Against Nuclear Iran effort, we will announce various programs in the months ahead that we hope will be rallying points for the American and international public to voice unified opposition to a nuclear Iran.

We do not aim to beat the drums of war. On the contrary, we hope to lay the groundwork for effective U.S. policies in coordination with our allies, the U.N. and others by a strong showing of unified support from the American people to alter the Iranian regime's current course. The American people must have a voice in this great foreign-policy challenge, and we can make a real difference through national and international, social, economic, political and diplomatic measures.

Mr. Holbrooke is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Woolsey is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Mr. Ross was a special Middle East coordinator for President Clinton. Mr. Wallace was a representative of the U.S. to the U.N. for management and reform.
Title: WSJ: Useful Idiots
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 22, 2008, 10:46:33 PM
Imagine yourself as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now in your fourth year as president of Iran and about to make yet another appearance at the U.N.'s General Assembly in New York. Superficially -- but only superficially -- things do not appear to be going well.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Over the weekend, you replaced the head of your central bank over differences about an inflation rate of 28%, up from 12% in 2006. He's the second one to go in just a year. Ali Larijani, once your top nuclear negotiator, resigned last year over his objections to your confrontational style, and may challenge you in next year's presidential election. Your boss, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also cooled on your presidency.

Abroad, your tenure has brought about three binding, albeit weak, U.N. sanctions. The often pliant International Atomic Energy Agency last week issued a scathing report, scoring your government for obstructing its investigations and citing evidence that your military has sought to refit long-range missiles to carry a nuclear warhead. Now France and Britain are pressing for another round of sanctions -- and another kick in the shins to your faltering economy.

As for your well-publicized doubts and disquisitions on the future of Israel, or the existence of homosexuality in Iran, or the Holocaust, or the divine halo you sensed the first time you spoke at the U.N., you have succeeded -- as George W. Bush never could have done on his own -- in convincing the American public that Iran is a clear and present danger. In Tel Aviv they say you must be a Mossad mole. Could the Islamic Republic possibly have an uglier face?

Of course not. And that's the whole point of your presidency. Your goal has been to define Iranian deviancy down. You've succeeded handsomely.

A decade ago, before anyone outside the torture chambers of Tehran's Evin prison knew your name, it was former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who personified the Iranian hard line. He green-lighted terrorist attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina; he refused to revoke the death sentence on novelist Salman Rushdie; a German court fingered him in the assassinations of Iranian-Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant. When Mohammad Khatami succeeded him as president, the world breathed a sigh of relief.

Now it is Mr. Rafsanjani who is often spoken of as a "pragmatist" and a "moderate" -- as compared to you.

As for the nuclear file, in 2004 the West's bottom line was that Iran had to suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for negotiations. Mr. Khatami obliged (or at least pretended to); the West's negotiating position barely budged.

By contrast, since you took over you have installed thousands of centrifuges, spinning uranium roughly at a rate of a bomb's worth of fissile material every year. And while you've paid a price in U.N. sanctions, you've also caused Russia and China to split with the rest of the Security Council over stiffer penalties. Better yet, the Bush administration has gone from refusing to negotiate, to offering conditional negotiations, to pursuing low-level negotiations and now, lately, feeling its way toward tacit diplomatic normalization. All that without you bending an inch toward the West.

Above all, you have given the world time to digest the notion that Iran will inevitably become a nuclear power, and that nothing can be done to stop it -- at least at any kind of acceptable price. Will Americans agree to open a third military front in the Middle East? Does Israel, which couldn't so much as defeat Hezbollah, want to roll the dice on a bombing run that will spark another bloody regional war but retard Iran's nuclear programs by at most a few years? How will the U.S. afford its epic Wall Street bailouts if you shut down the Straits of Hormuz?

Surely your enemies will take no such risks. Which is why you're pleased that the more far-seeing Americans are coming around to your point of view. Look at former CIA spy Robert Baer. Mr. Baer has a new book arguing that the U.S. ought not "to stand in the way of Iran's quest to dominate Islam." He thinks Israel's nuclear arms should be put under U.N. supervision. He believes the U.S. and Iran are ripe for the kind of alliance Nixon forged with Mao.

It cannot surprise you that such ideas are now taking root with the American intelligentsia; useful idiots always contribute to the revolution.

And what about your own future? It's true that Iran has inflation and other economic headaches, but didn't the Imam Khomeini say he didn't start a revolution to bring down the price of melons? If the Almighty wills that you will leave office next year, so be it. As president, you have done more for the Islamic Republic in your four years than all your predecessors combined managed in their 25.
Title: WSJ: Iran's Nuke Waltz
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 03, 2008, 01:23:20 PM
At its annual Vienna powwow this week, the world's nuclear watchdog is taking Iran for a few spins over its atomic ambitions. But the mullahs in Tehran know this diplomatic waltz well, and they can rest assured the dance merely frees up more time and space for them to get their bomb.

The International Atomic Energy Agency report does at least tell us the Iranians are closer than ever to becoming a nuclear power. In unusually scathing terms for an outfit disinclined to criticize Iran, the IAEA lays bare Tehran's lack of cooperation and implies it was hiding illegal military work related to its nuclear program. After six years of monitoring, says IAEA boss Mohamed ElBaradei, "the agency has not been able to make substantive progress" to resolve concerns about Iran's military ambitions.

According to the IAEA report, Iran had built up a stockpile of 1,058 pounds of "low-enriched" uranium hexafloride by the end of August. At this rate, as Gary Milhollin of Iran Watch pointed out in the New York Times, Iran will have the low-enriched uranium necessary to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb by mid-January. Iran has recently tested long-range missiles and tried to retrofit them to carry a nuclear warhead.

The five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, are on record saying a nuclear Iran would be unacceptable. Surely the U.N., meeting in General Assembly last week days after the IAEA report came out, would respond with urgency. Sure enough, the Europeans and the U.S. suggested another round of sanctions, a position backed by China. And sure enough, Russia scotched those plans.

In its place, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Iran to abide by the previous three resolutions to suspend its enrichment program. Translation: "Stop -- or we'll do nothing." Condoleezza Rice called it "a very positive step." Her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, a foreign minister in the Andrei Gromyko mold, was more honest: "This is a reiteration of the status quo."

The Russian ambassador at the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, claimed the irresolute resolution would channel "the minds of everybody in the direction of political rather than military enterprises." The potentially tragic irony is that the failure of resolve makes a military conflict more likely. If Iranian nuclear progress isn't halted by political or economic means, someone -- probably Israel -- will try to stop it by force.

The Security Council nonaction did give Iran a pretext to make fresh threats. A senior Iranian lawmaker told the state news agency that Iran would limit the IAEA's access to the known nuclear sites. The covert sites are off limits. Presumably he was speaking on orders. But the Europeans, joined in recent months by the Bush Administration, still claim to believe that Iran can be talked out of the bomb.

The Iranians have been offered everything from membership in the World Trade Organization to Western billions and backing for its energy sector, including civilian nuclear reactors. The mullahs mock those entreaties. And in the latest humiliation, Iran's terrorist client state with its own nuclear ambitions, Syria, was poised this week to win a seat on the IAEA's 35-member board. The U.S. and EU are trying to get Afghanistan in its place.

Both of America's Presidential candidates say they worry about a new nuclear arms race. The best way to stop proliferation, particularly in the combustible Middle East, is to start getting serious about stopping Iran from joining the club.

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
Title: WSJ
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 16, 2008, 07:01:10 AM
It's been a while since German military officers attended rallies that feature threats to Jews. Last month Berlin's defense attaché in Tehran resumed that tradition at Iran's annual military parade.

The German envoy had the privilege of hearing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promise to "break the hands" of invaders amid banners that read "Israel should be eradicated from the universe" and shouts of "Down with Israel" and "We will crush America under our feet."

Iran's parades are notorious for their "Death to Israel and America" slogans, which is why the European Union shuns these hate-filled spectacles. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was "very annoyed" about the attaché's faux pas, according to a report in Der Spiegel, and summoned Herbert Honsowitz, the ambassador to the Islamic Republic, to Berlin. Mr. Honsowitz, who is known for pushing trade between the two nations, has since returned to his post and is expected to serve out his term.

This episode illustrates the fundamental problem with Germany's attitude toward Iran: the disconnect between what Berlin says is its official policy goal -- stopping the mullahs' quest for nuclear arms -- and what Berlin actually does. Germany remains Iran's key Western trading partner. The German-Iranian Chamber of Industry and Trade counts about 2,000 members, including such big names as Siemens and BASF. In the first seven months of this year, Germany's Federal Office of Economics and Export Control approved 1,926 business deals with Iran -- an increase of 63% over last year. During that same period, German exports to Iran rose 14.1%.

For the record, French exports went up 21% during the first six months of the year, but they are still worth less than half of Germany's €2.2 billion of exports. Britain's exports to Tehran, only a fraction of Germany's trade with Iran, fell 20%. And while France and the U.K. are both pushing for tougher EU sanctions against Iran, Germany is reluctant to join their cause.

Given this reality, it's not surprising that Berlin's ambassador in Tehran apparently thought nothing of sending a military envoy to Iran's "Down with Israel" rally. He simply put Germany's mouth where its money already is.

Title: WSJ: Well, Iran has conditions even if BO does not
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 22, 2008, 03:21:24 PM
Barack Obama's declaration that, if elected, he would be willing to sit down and talk to Iran "without preconditions" has been widely discussed in this country. It's a key policy difference between him and John McCain, who rejects unconditional talks with Tehran.

So what does the Islamic Republic think? The enterprising reporters at the state news agency recently asked a high-ranking official for his opinion on talks with the U.S. As it turns out, Iran has its own "preconditions" and they don't suggest a diplomatic breakthrough, or even a summit, anytime soon.

Mehdi Kalhor, Vice President for Media Affairs, said the U.S. must do two things before summit talks can take place. First, American military forces must leave the Middle East -- presumably including such countries as Iraq, Qatar, Turkey and anywhere else American soldiers are deployed in the region. Second, the U.S. must cease its support of Israel. Until Washington does both, talks are "off the agenda," the Islamic Republic News Agency reports. It quotes Mr. Kalhor as saying, "If they [the U.S.] take our advice, grounds for such talks would be well prepared.

Iran is one of the toughest and most urgent foreign policy problems the new U.S. Administration will face. If Mr. Obama ends up in the Oval Office on January 20, he may find that solving it will take more than walking into a room and talking to Iranians "without preconditions."

Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on October 22, 2008, 03:47:53 PM
But, but Obama is going to heal the earth. He promised......
Title: T. Friedman
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 29, 2008, 09:26:18 AM
I don't think as much of T. Friedman as he does, but this piece does make some fair points.

Sleepless in Tehran
Published: October 28, 2008

I’ve always been dubious about Barack Obama’s offer to negotiate with Iran — not because I didn’t believe that it was the right strategy, but because I didn’t believe we had enough leverage to succeed. And negotiating in the Middle East without leverage is like playing baseball without a bat.

Well, if Obama does win the presidency, my gut tells me that he’s going to get a chance to negotiate with the Iranians — with a bat in his hand.

Have you seen the reports that Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is suffering from exhaustion? It’s probably because he is not sleeping at night. I know why. Watching oil prices fall from $147 a barrel to $57 is not like counting sheep. It’s the kind of thing that gives an Iranian autocrat bad dreams.

After all, it was the collapse of global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union. And Iran today is looking very Soviet to me.

As Vladimir Mau, president of Russia’s Academy of National Economy, pointed out to me, it was the long period of high oil prices followed by sharply lower oil prices that killed the Soviet Union. The spike in oil prices in the 1970s deluded the Kremlin into overextending subsidies at home and invading Afghanistan abroad — and then the collapse in prices in the ‘80s helped bring down that overextended empire.

(Incidentally, this was exactly what happened to the shah of Iran: 1) Sudden surge in oil prices. 2) Delusions of grandeur. 3) Sudden contraction of oil prices. 4) Dramatic downfall. 5) You’re toast.)

Under Ahmadinejad, Iran’s mullahs have gone on a domestic subsidy binge — using oil money to cushion the prices of food, gasoline, mortgages and to create jobs — to buy off the Iranian people. But the one thing Ahmadinejad couldn’t buy was real economic growth. Iran today has 30 percent inflation, 11 percent unemployment and huge underemployment with thousands of young college grads, engineers and architects selling pizzas and driving taxis. And now with oil prices falling, Iran — just like the Soviet Union — is going to have to pull back spending across the board. Fasten your seat belts.

The U.N. has imposed three rounds of sanctions against Iran since Ahmadinejad took office in 2005 because of Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment. But high oil prices minimized those sanctions; collapsing oil prices will now magnify those sanctions. If prices stay low, there is a good chance Iran will be open to negotiating over its nuclear program with the next U.S. president.

That is a good thing because Iran also funds Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and the anti-U.S. Shiites in Iraq. If America wants to get out of Iraq and leave behind a decent outcome, plus break the deadlocks in Lebanon and Israel-Palestine, it needs to end the cold war with Iran. Possible? I don’t know, but the collapse of oil prices should give us a shot.

But let’s use our leverage smartly and not exaggerate Iran’s strength. Just as I believe that we should drop the reward for the capture of Osama bin Laden — from $50 million to one penny, plus an autographed picture of Dick Cheney — we need to deflate the Iranian mullahs as well. Let them chase us.

Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, compares it to bargaining for a Persian carpet in Tehran. “When you go inside the carpet shop, the first thing you are supposed to do is feign disinterest,” he explains. “The last thing you want to suggest is ‘We are not leaving without that carpet.’ ‘Well,’ the dealer will say, ‘if you feel so strongly about it ...’ ”

The other lesson from the carpet bazaar, says Sadjadpour, “is that there is never a price tag on any carpet. The dealer is not looking for a fixed price, but the highest price he can get — and the Iran price is constantly fluctuating depending on the price of oil.” Let’s now use that to our advantage.

Barack Hussein Obama would present another challenge for Iran’s mullahs. Their whole rationale for being is that they are resisting a hegemonic American power that wants to keep everyone down. Suddenly, next week, Iranians may look up and see that the country their leaders call “The Great Satan” has just elected “a guy whose middle name is the central figure in Shiite Islam — Hussein — and whose last name — Obama — when transliterated into Farsi, means ‘He is with us,’ ” said Sadjadpour.

Iran is ripe for deflating. Its power was inflated by the price of oil and the popularity of its leader, who was cheered simply because he was willing to poke America with a stick. But as a real nation-building enterprise, the Islamic Revolution in Iran has been an abject failure.

“When you ask young Arabs which leaders in the region they most admire,” said Sadjadpour, they will usually answer the leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. “When you ask them where in the Middle East would you most like to live,” he added, “the answer is usually socially open places like Dubai or Beirut. The Islamic Republic of Iran is never in the top 10.”

Title: Iran & the BO administration
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 07, 2008, 08:27:44 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran and an Obama Administration
November 7, 2008 | 0256 GMT

A number of senior Iranian officials on Thursday issued positive statements toward the United States. One of those was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, in a rare move, congratulated U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on his electoral victory. Then the Islamic Republic’s Prosecutor-General, Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dori-Najafabadi, called on Obama to demonstrate goodwill and end sanctions against Tehran. Elsewhere, Iranian Ambassador to Kuwait Ali Jannati said his country was ready to normalize relations with the United States and expressed hope that, under an Obama administration, Washington would change its policies toward Tehran.

Important to note in these various remarks is that they were made by prominent hard-liners as opposed to the more pragmatic conservative elements in the clerical regime. The most noteworthy of these was the Iranian envoy to Kuwait, who is the son of a very senior and powerful radical cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, chairman of the Guardian Council — the body that vets candidates for public office and has the power of legislative oversight. So, the question is, why is the Ahmadinejad administration, which would normally be lambasting the United States, now acting all warm and fuzzy?

For starters, the Iranians, like many other international actors, expect an Obama administration — in a sharp departure from the attitude of its predecessor — would invest heavily in some bold diplomacy. From Tehran’s point of view, this potentially could provide the perfect opening for it to move ahead and consolidate its position vis-a-vis Iraq and the nuclear issue. The Iranians feel that they are well placed to negotiate with a new White House from a position of relative strength, especially given Obama’s need to make good on his electoral promise to disengage militarily from Iraq.

The interest of a geopolitically emergent Iran, however, is not the only factor informing Ahmadinejad’s calculus. Before it can truly improve its position, Tehran desperately needs to get ahead of a burgeoning economic crisis. Just two days ago, Iran’s deputy central bank governor for economic affairs, Ramin Pashaei, said that Tehran needs the price of oil to average a little over $60 a barrel until March 2009 (the end of the current Iranian year) to avoid “big problems.” It should be noted that on Thursday oil prices were barely able to stay at the $60 mark.

The faltering state of the Iranian economy is the sore point for Ahmadinejad, who is up for re-election in June 2009. He, therefore, desperately needs to show some sort of victory in order to secure his re-election. The president and his ultraconservative faction also realize that Tehran must bury the hatchet with the United States in order to achieve its objective of being a global player — and Ahmadinejad wants to be able to claim this success.

On the U.S. side of this equation, an Obama administration also will want to engage diplomatically with the clerical regime — but the million-dollar question is, how does it go about doing that without creating problems for itself both at home and internationally. The Bush administration, which was not bogged down with public doubts about its commitment to national security, has been unable to make much progress on this front.

Even in its fading moments, the Bush administration is struggling between the need to deal with Iran and the need to contain it. On Thursday, the Treasury Department imposed additional restrictions against Iran’s banks — a move that comes amid reports that the administration could announce the opening of a “U.S. interests section” in Iran before the end of November. The Bush administration has also had a hard time balancing its need to engage Iran with its commitment to its Arab allies and Israel.

For an Obama administration, this could create an even bigger problem, with the Israelis and the Arabs very uncomfortable with the new U.S. government reaching out to Iran. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is hoping to be prime minister in the aftermath of the Israeli election slated for February, expressed opposition to any move on the part of an Obama administration to talk to Iran. Similarly, Saudi King Abdullah, who is due to arrive in New York next week for an interfaith gathering at the United Nations, will reportedly be putting out feelers to Obama in an effort to gauge how the balance of power in the Persian Gulf will be affected by the moves to engage Iran.

Striking a balance between the need to reach a settlement with Iran (on Iraq, at least) and the need to maintain existing relationships with Israel and the Arab states could very well prove to be the most challenging foreign policy issue that the Obama administration will find itself struggling with very early on in its term.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on November 07, 2008, 08:32:38 AM
1/20/09 will be a glorious day for the mullahs. Full steam ahead on the nukes that will turn Tel Aviv into a sheet of glass.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on November 07, 2008, 09:41:35 AM

Aware of Obama's affinity for socializing with terrorists, A-jad offers a hand of friendship. Wonderful.
Title: Talking with Iran has been done for 30 years.
Post by: ccp on November 10, 2008, 08:50:34 AM
I got this in the mail and here is a link to a position paper about the 30 year failure of negotiations with Iran.  BO is going to continue down the same path.   Iran may already even posses of bomb.  Of course Iran sees as as weak now.   Of course they will play the lets talk game.   They have been doing it for decades.   Yet "70%"  of Iranians are not happy with the Radicals in control.
Title: WSJ: Pressuring Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 13, 2008, 07:26:28 AM
If Barack Obama is to persuade Iran to negotiate away its illegal nuclear weapons program, he will first need to generate more leverage than what the Bush administration is leaving him with. The current U.N. sanctions have proven too weak to dissuade Tehran's leaders, and Russia and China seem determined to keep those sanctions weak. Meanwhile, the regime continues to insist there are no incentives in exchange for which it would halt or even limit its nuclear work.

David KleinHowever, Tehran has an economic Achilles' heel -- its extraordinarily heavy dependence on imported gasoline. This dependence could be used by the United States to peacefully create decisive leverage over the Islamic Republic.

Iranian oil wells produce far more petroleum (crude oil) than Iran needs. Yet, remarkably for a country investing so much in nuclear power, Iran has not developed sufficient capacity to refine that crude oil into gasoline and diesel fuel. As a result, it must import some 40% of the gasoline it needs for internal consumption.

In recent months, Iran has, according to the respected trade publication International Oil Daily and other sources including the U.S. government, purchased nearly all of this gasoline from just five companies, four of them European: the Swiss firm Vitol; the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura; the French firm Total; British Petroleum; and one Indian company, Reliance Industries. If these companies stopped supplying Iran, the Iranians could replace only some of what they needed from other suppliers -- and at a significantly higher price. Neither Russia nor China could serve as alternative suppliers. Both are themselves also heavily dependent on imports of the type of gasoline Iran needs.

Were these companies to stop supplying gasoline to Iran, the world-wide price of oil would be unaffected -- the companies would simply sell to other buyers. But the impact on Iran would be substantial.

When Tehran attempted to ration gasoline during the summer of 2007, violent protests forced the regime to back down. Cutting off gasoline sales to Iran, or even a significant reduction, could have an even more dramatic effect.

In Congress, there is already bipartisan support for peacefully cutting off gasoline sales to Iran until it stops its illicit nuclear activities. Barack Obama, John McCain and the House of Representatives have all declared their support.

On June 4 of this year, for example, Sen. Obama said at a speech in Washington, D.C.: "We should work with Europe, Japan and the Gulf states to find every avenue outside the U.N. to isolate the Iranian regime -- from cutting off loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions, to banning the export of refined petroleum to Iran."

He repeated this sentiment during the presidential candidates' debate on Oct. 7: "Iran right now imports gasoline . . . if we can prevent them from importing the gasoline that they need . . . that starts changing their cost-benefit analysis. That starts putting the squeeze on them."

How do we stop the gasoline from flowing? The Bush administration has reportedly never asked the Swiss, Dutch, French, British or Indian governments to stop gasoline sales to Iran by the companies headquartered within their borders. An Obama administration should make this request, and do the same with other governments if other companies try to sell gasoline to Iran.

But the U.S. also has significant direct leverage over the companies that currently supply most of Iran's imported gasoline.

Consider India's Reliance Industries which, according to International Oil Daily, "reemerged as a major supplier of gasoline to Iran" in July after taking a break for several months. It "delivered three cargoes of gasoline totaling around 100,000 tons to Iran's Mideast Gulf port of Bandar Abbas from its giant Jamnagar refinery in India's western province of Gujarat." Reliance reportedly "entered into a new arrangement with National Iranian Oil Co. (NIOC) under which it will supply around . . . three 35,000-ton cargoes a month, from its giant Jamnagar refinery." One hundred thousand tons represents some 10% of Iran's total monthly gasoline needs.

The Jamnagar refinery is heavily supported by U.S. taxpayer dollars. In May 2007, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a government agency that assists in financing the export of U.S. goods and services, announced a $500 million loan guarantee to help finance expansion of the Jamnagar refinery. On Aug. 28, 2008, Ex-Im announced a new $400 million long-term loan guarantee for Reliance, including additional financing of work at the Jamnagar refinery.

Or consider the Swiss firm Vitol. According to International Oil Daily, Vitol "over the past few years has accounted for around 60% of the gasoline shipped to Iran." Vitol is currently building a $100 million terminal in Port Canaveral, Florida.

Last year, when Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty discovered that an Indian company, Essar, was seeking to both invest some $1.6 billion in Minnesota and invest over $5 billion in building a refinery in Iran, he put Essar to a choice. Mr. Pawlenty threatened to block state infrastructure subsidies and perhaps even construction permits for the Minnesota purchase unless Essar withdrew from the Iranian investment. Essar promptly withdrew from the Iranian investment.

Florida officials could consider taking a similar stance with Vitol.

In today's Opinion Journal

A Barack MarketEmpire State ImplosionThe Greens Get Harpooned


Wonder Land: A Monument to Government Power
– Daniel HenningerHistory Favors Republicans in 2010
– Karl Rove


How to Put the Squeeze on Iran
– Orde F. KittrieObama and Missile Defense
– John R. BoltonIt's Time to Rethink Our Retirement Plans
– Roger W. Ferguson Jr.The Minnesota example is not the only precedent. U.S. outreach to foreign banks and to oil companies considering investing in Iran's energy sector has reportedly convinced more than 80 banks and several major potential oil-field investors to cease all or some of their business with Iran. Among them: Germany's two largest banks (Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank), London-based HSBC, Credit Suisse, Norwegian energy company StatoilHydro, and Royal Dutch Shell.

A sustained initiative may be able to convince most or all current and potential suppliers that the profits to be gained from continuing to sell gasoline to Iran will be dwarfed by the lost loan guarantees and subsidies and foregone profits they will incur in the U.S. from continuing to do business with Iran.

Last Sunday, a group of 60 Iranian economists called for the regime to drastically change course, saying that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "tension-creating" foreign policy has "scared off foreign investment and inflicted heavy damage on the economy." The economists said the current sanctions, as weak as they are, have cost Iran billions of dollars by forcing it to use middlemen for exports and imports. Halting Iran's gasoline supply could contribute to reaching a tipping point -- at which economic pressures and protests convince the regime its illicit nuclear program poses too great a risk to its grip over the Iranian people.

If the federal and key state governments in the U.S. were to make it their goal to achieve a halt by companies selling gasoline to Iran, it could be a game-changer. It may be our best remaining hope for peacefully convincing Iran to desist from developing nuclear weapons.

Mr. Kittrie is a professor of law at Arizona State University and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He previously worked for 11 years at the U.S. Department of State, including as a specialist on nuclear nonproliferation and sanctions.
Title: Iranian bond proposal
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 20, 2008, 08:45:41 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Bond Announcement and High Hopes For Talks
November 20, 2008 | 0104 GMT

Iran’s deputy central bank governor, Hossein Qazavi, said Nov. 19 that Iran is considering issuing a $1 billion international bond “to attract international investment,” seven months after it repaid its last bond. The issuance would be Iran’s first since 2002, and only its third since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Through a bond market, countries look to “sell” their debts to international investors by parceling them into portions that can be bought individually. Raising money through the bond market is often easier than getting a loan from one or several banks; because the debt is divided into portions that investors of nearly any size can afford, banks and/or individuals with less capital on hand can come to the table. By getting more players involved, the country that needs its debt serviced can increase competition over the bond and thus decrease the price it has to pay for it. Of course, for this to work, someone actually has to want to buy the bond. Unlike a loan that is negotiated with one or several financial institutions, a bond market works on the principle of a market. It rewards credit-worthy countries whose debts are highly sought after (due to the state’s perceived financial strength and, therefore, its ability to repay the “loan” plus interest), and punishes countries that are not credit-worthy. In those terms, forays into the bond market are risky, as they potentially expose states to investor scrutiny.

The current conditions in global credit markets make investment in Iranian bonds highly unlikely, as very few sovereign or private investors have any money on hand, particularly to buy risky bonds. But leaving this aside, Qazavi’s announcement leads one to wonder about the overall health of the Islamic Republic.

With oil prices poised to sink below $50 per barrel any day now, Iran is scrambling to cover its budgetary costs, with potential social unrest looming if various government subsidies — particularly those for gasoline, which refinery-poor and gasoline-guzzling Iran must import — have to be cut. Tehran is staring social unrest in the face, and desperate times might call for such desperate measures as begging cash-strapped foreign investors for $1 billion.

Another problem with the bond issuance in the current geopolitical climate is that it is unclear whether any European or Asian bank would dare to finance the bond. Since 2002, when Iran’s last bond was issued, the United States has specifically targeted Iranian banks, cajoling the European Union to stop doing business with certain Iranian banks and getting more than 40 international banks to agree to halt business with Tehran. In October 2007, Washington also designated several Iranian banks as supporters of terrorism.

Furthermore, the United States’ Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), currently in place until 2011, strongly discourages foreign companies from investing in Iran’s energy sector and pledges retaliatory sanctions against those who do. In his announcement, Qazavi noted that the bond issuance would let investors “safely invest and take part in various projects including petrochemicals” — investments in which the ISA specifically tries to discourage the participation of non-U.S. entities. It’s unclear whether the ISA would give Washington the authority to put Iranian bond purchasers under sanctions, but the possibility clearly exists, and it will be enough to deter already bearish global investors.

On the flip side, Qazavi’s comments might be evidence that the latest round of negotiations between the Americans and Iranians are progressing well, and that they might even be nearing a conclusion. Washington’s ultimate goal in the negotiations is to limit Iran’s influence in Iraq, while Tehran wants to limit the United States’ ability to roll forces eastward from Baghdad. Negotiations began as early as months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but ultimately stalled on the most important issues, as an emboldened United States rejected Iran’s offers for a comprehensive deal on Iraq. Iran responded to the rebuff by restarting its nuclear program, and by supporting Hezbollah in its conflict with Israel in the summer of 2006, as well as backing Shiite groups in a flare-up of violence in Iraq in November of that year. The two sides went back to the negotiating table after the 2007 U.S. troop surge.

With the United States and Iraq inking a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that will lead to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in three years, it appears that Washington and Tehran also are now close to a deal. Iran’s judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, confirmed as much on Nov. 18, when he said the Iraqi government had done “very well” in approving the SOFA. It was the first time Tehran had voiced any sort of approval of the agreement. The United States of course hopes that the Baghdad of 2011 will be able to resist Tehran’s influence, and that the troop withdrawal will therefore be possible.

Qazavi’s comments on the $1 billion bond, put in the context of ongoing negotiations, suggest that Tehran might be betting that talks with the Americans are near an end. A U.S. rapprochement with Iran would certainly place a stamp of approval on foreign investment in Iran. Without such a stamp, any bond issuance would make little sense. Therefore, Iran either must be desperate for capital due to serious economic problems, or preparing for a positive announcement on the negotiating front.
Title: WSJ: Germany loves Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 29, 2008, 07:27:08 AM
The recent U.N. report that Iran may have enough nuclear material to build an atomic bomb is causing concern in Germany -- not over an Islamic bomb, but over the risk of tougher U.N. sanctions.

The German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce sponsored a seminar this week in Hamburg entitled "Iran Sanctions -- Practical Consequences for German Companies." The session was designed to help firms in "these difficult times" -- a reference to U.N. trade sanctions, not the global economy. Speakers included Sabine Hummerich from Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank. In June, the European Union froze Bank Melli's assets because of its ties to Tehran's nuclear program and barred dealings with the bank. This didn't stop organizers from inviting Ms. Hummerich to lecture about the "Financial Transaction of Iranian Business Deals."

As Europe's largest exporter to Iran, Germany has unique leverage over the regime. But Berlin refuses to use it. German exports to Iran are up 14.1% in the first seven months of this year. The Islamic Republic is so popular in Germany that another group, Management Circle, is planning a two-day crash course next month in Frankfurt. The program lists seven reasons for doing business with Iran, including "traditional good economic and political relations with Germany."

Readers may recall that Barack Obama assailed President Bush for not doing more diplomatically to contain Iran, including more vigorous sanctions. Job one on that score for Mr. Obama would seem to be persuading his many admirers in Germany. Good luck.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 15, 2008, 01:01:32 AM
Iran's universities are again the scene of battles over the country's future. In the digital age, we're able to take a better peek inside.

Footage of recent student protests in Tehran, Shiraz and Hamedan are all over the Internet. In particular, one clip of a student dressing down a government dignitary reveals a remarkable willingness to defy the regime. On the video, a young man at Shiraz University rises to address the visiting speaker of parliament and former nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. "I'm not going to ask you a question because I don't accept you as the legitimate speaker or the parliament as legitimate," the student says, citing the elimination of opposition candidates in the previous parliamentary election.

Watch the Video

Courtesy of YouTube.Sitting on stage before a hundred or so students, Mr. Larijani looks taken aback and says nothing. "Let me tell you what is weighing heavily on my heart," the student continues. "I hate three things. One, I hate [President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Applause erupts -- in itself an act of defiance, since the mullahs consider clapping, along with neckties, a Western habit. "Two, I hate him for his hypocrisy." At this point, some pro-regime students -- whom reports link to the government-sanctioned Basij organization, the mullahs' brown shirts -- interrupt with chants and heckles. Amid the mayhem, the video ends. We don't know the young man's name or what happened to him after this October 9 encounter. Some Iranians speculate he was arrested; others say he went into hiding.

Since the last student uprising was crushed six years ago, Iran has seen sporadic but growing resistance to the regime -- most recently at the "Student Day" rallies on December 6 that commemorate the 1953 killing of three demonstrators by the Shah's army. The Shiraz student calls to mind the lone man, that "unknown rebel," who stood up to Chinese tanks during the Tiananmen protests. President-elect Obama says the U.S. should engage Iran. As one of our friends points out, "He has a choice: Engage with what Larijani represents, or engage with the generation of that student."
Title: Bolton: BO=Bush3
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 01, 2009, 10:38:52 PM
"You'd have to be an idiot to trust the North Koreans," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said recently. Apparently unaware of the irony, she then predicted eventual success for the six-party talks on the North's nuclear weapons program.

President-elect Barack Obama has promised major changes in U.S. diplomacy and repeatedly criticized the Bush administration on both substance and style. Mr. Obama has pledged more negotiation and multilateralism -- less saber-rattling and "take it or leave it" unilateralism. While Iraq was Mr. Obama's focal point in the campaign, the biggest problem ahead is countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

But on proliferation, what is striking are the similarities between Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush's second term. Given Mr. Bush's recent record, continuity between the two presidencies is hardly reassuring. And where Mr. Obama differs with Mr. Bush, he is only more accommodating to the intractable rogues running Pyongyang and Tehran. This is decidedly bad news.

The recent, embarrassing collapse of the six-party talks starkly underlines how, under Mr. Obama, everything old will be new again. The talks are classic multilateral diplomacy, pursued since 2003 with notable deference to North Korea. There's been about as much engagement with Pyongyang as consenting adults can lawfully have.

The outcome of this Obama-style diplomacy was the same as all prior negotiations with the leaders of the world's largest prison camp. North Korea charged even for the privilege of sitting at the negotiating table, extracted concession after concession, endlessly renegotiated points that had been resolved, and ultimately delivered nothing of consequence in return.

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When pressed, North Korea would bluster and threaten to rain destruction on South Korea. "Experts" on North Korea would observe that this was just its style, nothing to worry about. Thus did the Bush administration enable the North's bullying behavior by proclaiming even greater willingness to offer further carrots.

Most recently in Beijing, Pyongyang refused to put in writing what U.S. negotiators say it committed to verbally -- namely, verifying its commitment to abandon its nuclear program. But even taking U.S. negotiators at their word, this did not constitute real verification. The charade of verification was only one more ploy to squeeze out U.S. concessions, which Mr. Bush's negotiators seemed prepared to give.

On Iran, also for over five years, Mr. Bush has endorsed vigorous European diplomacy. The Europeans offered every imaginable carrot to persuade Iran to drop its nuclear program in exchange for a different relationship with Europe and America. This produced no change in Iran's strategic objective of acquiring deliverable nuclear weapons. The only real consequence is that Iran is five years closer to achieving that objective. It now has indigenous mastery over the entire nuclear fuel cycle.

The Obama alternative? "Present the Iranian regime with a clear choice" by using carrots and sticks to induce Iran to give up its nuclear aspirations. What does Mr. Obama think Mr. Bush and the Europeans have been doing? Does he really think his smooth talking will achieve more than Europe's smoothest talkers, who were in fact talking for us the whole time?

In Today's Opinion Journal


The Euro Decade and Its LessonsTreasury to Ford: Drop Dead


Declarations: In With the New
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: The Senate Goes Wobbly on Card Check
– Kimberley A. Strassel


Conservatives Can Unite Around the Constitution
– Peter BerkowitzLet's Be Worthy of Their Sacrific
– Karl RoveLet's Write the Rating Agencies Out of Our Law
– Robert RosenkranzObama Promises Bush III on Iran
– John R. BoltonIsrael's Policy Is Perfectly 'Proportionate'
– Alan M. DershowitzWhile Mr. Obama has uttered only generalities on North Korea, his Iran policy will be worse than Mr. Bush's. He acts as though the years of failed efforts to dissuade Iran from going nuclear simply didn't happen. That is blindness, not continuity. And that's without Mr. Obama's pledge to meet personally with Iran's leaders, an incredible act of legitimization he seems willing to give away for nothing.

Neither North Korea nor Iran is prepared to voluntarily give up nuclear or ballistic missile programs. The Bush policy was flawed not because its diplomacy was ineffective or disengaged, not because it was too intimidating to its adversaries, and not because it lacked persistence. Mr. Bush's flaw was believing that negotiation and mutual concession could accomplish the U.S. objective -- the end of proliferation threats from Pyongyang and Tehran -- when the objectives of our adversaries were precisely the opposite. They sought to buy valuable time to improve and expand their nuclear programs, extract as many carrots as possible, and play for legitimacy on the world stage.

Iran and North Korea achieved their objectives through diplomacy. Mr. Bush failed to achieve his. How can Mr. Obama do better? For starters, he could increase the pressure on China, which has real leverage over North Korea, to press Kim Jong Il's regime in ways that the six-party talks never approached. Options on Iran are more limited, but meaningful efforts at regime change and assisting Israel should it decide to strike Iran's nuclear facilities would be good first steps.

Sadly, the chances Mr. Obama will adopt these policies are far less than the steadily dwindling possibility that the Bush administration might yet come back to reality. Mr. Obama's handling of the rogue states will -- at best -- continue the Bush policies, which failed to stop nuclear proliferation. Get ready for a dangerous ride.

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

Title: WSJ: Teheran's Strip Club
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 12, 2009, 12:23:56 AM
The announcement late Friday that Lloyds bank has admitted to illegally transferring Iranian money into the U.S. deserves more public attention. The deferred prosecution agreement is a victory for the Manhattan District Attorney's office despite backroom foot-dragging from the U.S. Treasury. And it's further evidence of how deadly serious Iran is in seeking to buy parts for its missile and nuclear programs.

APUnder Lloyds TSB Group's deferred prosecution agreement with District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and the Justice Department, the British bank will pay a $350 million fine and, most important, share all its records on the Iranian transfers. If Lloyds continues to cooperate, neither the bank nor its executives will be criminally prosecuted for violating the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, under which the U.S. has imposed sanctions on Iran.

State-owned Iranian banks Saderat and Melli have been barred from the U.S. financial system for their ties to terrorism and nuclear proliferation, respectively, and were specifically cited in the U.N. Security Council's most recent sanctions order against Iran. But for years, Lloyds and other financial firms helped Iran's rogue banks infiltrate the U.S. Why did Iran's banks need American dollars? In some cases they appear to have purchased items within U.S. borders. In others, law enforcement sources believe the banks were channeling billions in cash through U.S. banks to third countries to parties demanding payment in dollars.

Our sources say the money trail often began at the Iranian Central Bank, which sent funds to banks Melli and Saderat, as well as to Bank Sepah, which a U.S. Treasury official has called "the financial linchpin of Iran's missile procurement network." The U.K. branches or subsidiaries of the Iranian banks would send electronic messages via the Swift banking payments system to Lloyds and possibly other financial houses. Employees at Lloyds would then re-key the data into a new Swift message, carefully removing any reference to Iran or its banks. Employees at the British bank called this "stripping." The sophisticated screening software at American banks would have raised red flags if the true source of the funds had been revealed, but coming from a respected British financial institution, they weren't questioned.

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Lloyds admits to stripping for Iran from 2001-2004, though it may have begun in the 1990s and wasn't detected by law enforcement until early 2007. But one reason for deferring prosecution is that Lloyds's employees began to raise questions and convinced the bank's leadership to end the illegal Iranian transfers via London by April of 2004. Lloyds's offices in Dubai and Tokyo continued to facilitate Iranian money transfers into the U.S. until October of that year. Illegal transfers from Sudan, similarly disguised to evade sanctions but at much lower dollar amounts, occurred through 2007.

We're told that records of transfers back to London suggest that the Iranians sometimes used overnight deposits in the U.S. to take advantage of favorable interest rates. But American officials are also now in a race to track down all of the ultimate destinations. Mr. Morgenthau's office, which has led this effort, suspects that some funds may have been used to purchase raw materials for long-range missiles.

In Today's Opinion Journal


Bank of the United States


The Americas: Dictatorship for Dummies
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: How the Music Industry Can Get Digital Satisfaction
– L. Gordon Crovitz


Charter Schools Can Close the Education Gap
– Joel I. Klein and Al SharptonTake It From McCain's Advisers: The GOP Would Raise Taxes
– Matt MillerWhy Russia Stokes Mideast Mayhem
– Garry KasparovThe U.S. Votes 'Present' at the U.N.
– John R. BoltonWe're also told that nine other banks are being investigated, including another British bank, a Swiss bank and a German bank. But since any illegal activity does not appear to have involved the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms, there is a question of how cooperative the foreign banks will be. The biggest potential payoff from Lloyds's cooperation should be when the bank identifies for U.S. law enforcers all of the wire transfers that originated in Iran, thus helping the CIA and FBI track them to their final destinations.

The size of this financial cover-up shows the lengths Iran has been going to evade sanctions and expand its military arsenal. Mr. Morgenthau has done a service in releasing the details, all the more so given the strange reticence of the U.S. Treasury. Treasury has long pushed for tough financial sanctions on Iran. Yet in this case it fought against criminal sanction, preferring only a civil judgment, and it argued for a lower fine. One possible explanation is that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson didn't want to offend British regulators by coming down too hard on one of their banks. However, it strikes us that helping Iran cover up its weapons-buying is serious enough to deserve the criminal sanction. Treasury officials declined our repeated invitations to comment.

Iran continues to make progress on its nuclear program, and yesterday the New York Times reported that President Bush refused a recent Israeli request for weapons that could help in any military strike against Tehran's nuclear sites. Whether or not that proves to be an historic mistake, it increases the importance of financial pressure on Iran. President-elect Obama has said he wants to toughen sanctions against Iran, and his new Treasury team can help by cooperating more with Mr. Morgenthau's investigation.

Title: 100,000 Martyrs coming right up , , ,
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 22, 2009, 05:16:11 PM
Iran: Students Rally To Martyrdom
January 21, 2009 | 1519 GMT

Approximately 100,000 students have joined an organization, whose members are purportedly willing to carry out “martyrdom seeking operations,” the Indo-Asian News Service reported Jan. 21.
Title: Progress ahead?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 27, 2009, 09:36:12 AM
Geopolitical Diary: More Progress Ahead for U.S.-Iranian Talks
January 27, 2009 | 0256 GMT

Susan Rice, the new U.S. envoy to the United Nations, on Monday echoed President Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to pursue a new approach in dealing with Iran, saying his administration intends to engage in direct diplomacy with Tehran.

Though relations between the countries have been pockmarked with “Death to America” slogans, trampled U.S. flags, militant proxy battles and nuclear plant centrifuges spinning in defiance, the U.S. occupation of Iraq gave Tehran and Washington many reasons to start talking again. Iran had a golden opportunity to consolidate Shiite influence in the heart of the Arab world, and the United States needed to deal with the Iranians to keep Iraq from tearing itself apart in a full-scale civil war.

Despite the long-standing tensions, the back-channel talks that had been taking place even before the United States invaded Iraq progressed, in the final phase of the Bush presidency, to the point that dialogue was able to break out into the public sphere, allowing the world to warm to the idea of the Great Satan talking to a member of the Axis of Evil. Now, after a year-long campaign filled with Iranian pledges to talk to the United States’ main adversaries, the sporadic and indirect negotiations are about to evolve into direct diplomatic talks. It’s been a rollercoaster relationship, but it is slowly and surely moving toward a more cooperative stance.

Signs of progress can already be seen: There are serious discussions about the U.S. State Department setting up a diplomatic office in Tehran, and hard-line Iranian ayatollahs are practically welcoming the Obama administration with open arms. We do not expect either Iran or the United States to rush the process, however. The Obama administration is still putting together a diplomatic team to develop an Iran strategy, and the Iranians have to get through presidential elections in June. That said, neither side is wasting time in laying the groundwork for a more constructive relationship.

The U.S. military drawdown in Iraq will be a significant confidence-building factor in these talks. With the world’s most powerful military force flanking them in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iranians have had more than a few sleepless nights over the past several years. The drawdown in Iraq has been made possible both by the success of the U.S. surge in stabilizing Iraq (which was also quietly facilitated to some extent by the Iranians) and a strategic need for the United States to refocus on Afghanistan, where a victory over al Qaeda and the Taliban is anything but assured.

The Iranians still will be faced with a residual U.S. military presence in Iraq over the longer term and a U.S.-Iraqi strategic partnership designed to counter Iranian influence, but they at least can be assured that within the next year, the United States will no longer be in an immediate offensive posture on their western frontier. In fact, the Pentagon is making contingency plans for the United States to complete the bulk of its withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2010 — a year ahead of the deadline stipulated by the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement — pending Obama’s approval.

In addition to building confidence for U.S.-Iranian dialogue, moves toward an accelerated U.S. withdrawal also could open new doors for cooperation in Afghanistan. There is no love lost between Tehran and al Qaeda or the Taliban, but Iran has been heavily involved in arming the jihadist insurgency in Afghanistan – hoping to keep the United States too preoccupied to think about regime change in Tehran. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also has plenty of intelligence that the United States would appreciate concerning the movements of al Qaeda operatives who travel in and out of Iran under the IRGC’s watch. U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus indicated recently that Afghanistan is an issue of mutual interest for Washington and Tehran. And with the U.S. military focus shifting from Iraq to Afghanistan, there is strong potential for a meeting of the minds between these two on how to contain the Taliban and eradicate al Qaeda.

Another test of U.S.-Iranian cooperation will concern the Mujahideen e-Khalq (MeK) — a cult-like Marxist-based group whose primary aim is to overthrow Iran’s clerical regime. Approximately 3,000 MeK members have been holed up in Camp Ashraf, in Iraq’s Diyala province, under the watch of the U.S. military throughout out the war. Tehran has worried that the United States and other Western powers could use the group as a tool to undermine the stability of the Iranian regime. Now that the United States is drawing down forces in Iraq, the Iranians want assurances from Washington that the MeK will not be able to reorganize. Mainly out of concern for human rights, the United States cannot simply extradite the MeK members to Iran or release them to authorities in Iraq, where they likely would be tortured and executed. For this reason, many of them are likely to find political asylum in the European Union, which voted Monday to remove the group from its list of terrorist organizations. The MeK threat might be a useful card for the United States and Europe to hold onto in their negotiations with Iran, but moving forward, Iran likely would demand some guarantees from the Obama administration that the group will be completely neutralized, in return for any potential cooperation on al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Of course, a number of significant challenges remain on the path toward rapprochement. In addition to the deep-set distrust that the United States and Iran have harbored for three decades, the nuclear issue — despite widely varying estimates on its threat value — remains a key sticking point in any diplomatic arrangement. This is especially true as the United States has to balance Iran against its relationship with Israel and the surrounding Arab states, which who all want to see Iran boxed in from all sides. While a full and imminent rapprochement might be wishful thinking, it is hard to deny these days that Iran and the United States are at least moving toward some sort of mutual understanding.
Title: Yes, but Does he Lust After Women in his Mind?
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on January 28, 2009, 06:14:25 PM
Somehow it seems fitting that this Jimmy Carter redux focuses on Iran.

Revealed: the letter Obama team hope will heal Iran rift
Symbolic gesture gives assurances that US does not want to topple Islamic regime
Robert Tait and Ewen MacAskill in Washington, Thursday 29 January 2009 01.44 GMT
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Officials of Barack Obama's administration have drafted a letter to Iran from the president aimed at unfreezing US-Iranian relations and opening the way for face-to-face talks, the Guardian has learned.

The US state department has been working on drafts of the letter since Obama was elected on 4 November last year. It is in reply to a lengthy letter of congratulations sent by the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on 6 November.

Diplomats said Obama's letter would be a symbolic gesture to mark a change in tone from the hostile one adopted by the Bush administration, which portrayed Iran as part of an "axis of evil".

It would be intended to allay the suspicions of Iran's leaders and pave the way for Obama to engage them directly, a break with past policy.

State department officials have composed at least three drafts of the letter, which gives assurances that Washington does not want to overthrow the Islamic regime, but merely seeks a change in its behaviour. The letter would be addressed to the Iranian people and sent directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or released as an open letter.

One draft proposal suggests that Iran should compare its relatively low standard of living with that of some of its more prosperous neighbours, and contemplate the benefits of losing its pariah status in the west. Although the tone is conciliatory, it also calls on Iran to end what the US calls state sponsorship of terrorism.

The letter is being considered by the new secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, as part of a sweeping review of US policy on Iran. A decision on sending it is not expected until the review is complete.

In an interview on Monday with the al-Arabiya television network, Obama hinted at a more friendly approach towards the Islamic Republic.

Ahmadinejad said yesterday that he was waiting patiently to see what the Obama administration would come up with. "We will listen to the statements closely, we will carefully study their actions, and, if there are real changes, we will welcome it," he said.

Ahmadinejad, who confirmed that he would stand for election again in June, said it was unclear whether the Obama administration was intent on just a shift in tactics or was seeking fundamental change. He called on Washington to apologise for its actions against Iran over the past 60 years, including US support for a 1953 coup that ousted the democratically elected government, and the US shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988.

The state department refused to comment yesterday on the draft letters.

US concern about Iran mainly centres on its uranium enrichment programme, which Washington claims is intended to provide the country with a nuclear weapons capability. Iran claims the programme is for civilian purposes.

The diplomatic moves are given increased urgency by fears that Israel might take unilateral action to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities.

The scale of the problem facing the new American president was reinforced yesterday when a senior aide to Ahmadinejad, Aliakbar Javanfekr, said that, despite the calls from the US, Iran had no intention of stopping its nuclear activities. When asked about a UN resolution calling for the suspension of Iran's uranium enrichment, Javanfekr, the presidential adviser for press affairs, replied: "We are past that stage."

One of the chief Iranian concerns revolves around suspicion that the US is engaged in covert action aimed at regime change, including support for separatist groups in areas such as Kurdistan, Sistan-Baluchestan and Khuzestan.

The state department has repeatedly denied that there is any American support for such groups.

In its dying days, the Bush administration was planning to open a US interests section in the Iranian capital Tehran, one step down from an embassy. Bush's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said that never happened because attention was diverted by the Russian invasion of Georgia. Others say that rightwingers in the Bush administration mounted a rearguard action to block it.

The idea has resurfaced, but if there are direct talks with Iran, it may be decided that a diplomatic presence would obviate the need for a diplomatic mission there, at least in the short term.

While Obama is taking the lead on policy towards Iran, the administration will soon announce that Dennis Ross will become a special envoy to the country, following the appointments last week of George Mitchell, the veteran US mediator, as special envoy to the Middle East, and Richard Holbrooke, who helped to broker the Bosnia peace agreement, as special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ross, who took a leading role in the Middle East peace talks in Bill Clinton's administration, will be responsible on a day-to-day basis for implementing policy towards Iran.

In a graphic sign of Iranian mistrust, the hardline newspaper Kayhan, which is considered close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has denounced Ross as a "Zionist lobbyist".

Saeed Leylaz, a Tehran-based analyst, said a US letter would have to be accompanied by security guarantees and an agreement to drop economic sanctions. "If they send such a letter it will be a very significant step towards better ties, but they should be careful in not thinking Tehran will respond immediately," he said.

"There will be disputes inside the system about such a letter. There are lot of radicals who don't want to see ordinary relations between Tehran and Washington. To convince Iran, they should send a very clear message that they are not going to try to destroy the regime."
Title: Surprise, surprise
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 31, 2009, 10:00:21 AM
Iran Says Obama's Offer To Talk Shows U.S. Failure


US President Barack Obama's offer to talk to Iran shows that America's policy of "domination" has failed, the government spokesman said on Saturday. "This request means Western ideology has become passive, that capitalist thought and the system of domination have failed," Gholam Hossein Elham was quoted as saying by the Mehr news agency.

"Negotiation is secondary, the main issue is that there is no way but for (the United States) to change," he added.
After nearly three decades of severed ties, Obama said shortly after taking office this month that he is willing to extend a diplomatic hand to Tehran if the Islamic republic is ready to "unclench its fist".

In response, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched a fresh tirade against the United States, demanding an apology for its "crimes" against Iran and saying he expected "deep and fundamental" change from Obama.
Iranian politicians frequently refer to the US administration as the "global arrogance", "domineering power" and "Great Satan".
Tensions with the United States have soared over Iran's nuclear drive and Ahmadinejad's vitriolic verbal attacks against Washington's close regional ally Israel.

Former US president George W. Bush refused to hold talks with the Islamic republic -- which he dubbed part of an "axis of evil" -- unless it suspended uranium enrichment, and never took a military option to thwart Tehran's atomic drive off the table.

The new administration of Obama has also refused to rule out any options -- including military strikes -- to stop Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Iran denies any plans to build the bomb and insists its nuclear programme is solely aimed at peaceful ends.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: ccp on January 31, 2009, 10:09:04 AM
"The new administration of Obama has also refused to rule out any options -- including military strikes"

Empty bluffs like these are nothing short of ridiculous.  Now if BO really wants to scare the beegeebees out of Ahmadinejad he should challenge him to a one on one game of HOOPS - winner take all.  Now that is scary (and believable).
Title: Stratfor: Treasury Dept puts Kurd Party on Terrorist list
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 05, 2009, 09:05:31 AM
The U.S. Treasury Department added the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) to its list of terrorist organizations on Wednesday. PJAK is a sister organization of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the prominent Kurdish guerrilla group that operates in Turkey and has bases in northern Iraq. PJAK also has bases in northern Iraq, but focuses its operations on northwestern Iran, where that country’s Kurdish minority is concentrated.

The timing of the Treasury move is significant. Tehran has complained for some time that the United States, in collaboration with Israeli and Western intelligence organizations, supports groups like PJAK whose aim is to undermine the stability of the Iranian regime.

And the Iranians have cause for concern. The geopolitical core of Iran, where the population is most densely concentrated, is in the mountainous northern and central regions. That geography itself creates ample opportunities for foreign rivals or domestic opponents to stir up trouble for the regime: Since only about half of the population is ethnically Persian, one of Iran’s chief security imperatives is to contain minority ethnic groups dispersed throughout the mountains. The group of biggest concern for the Iranians has been Mujahideen e-Khalq (MeK), a cult-like Islamist-Marxist rebel group with the explicit goal of overthrowing the clerical regime.

MeK fighters have been holed up in Iraq’s Diyala province, under the watch of the U.S. military – but now that U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraq in large numbers, something must done about the approximately 3,000 MeK members. Iran wants guarantees that groups like the MeK and PJAK will be neutralized. By placing PJAK on the U.S. terror list, Washington has made a symbolic move that tells Tehran that it is prepared to make certain concessions that will allow the clerical regime to rest more comfortably.

It is not clear yet how favorably the Iranians might respond to this move. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has made it clear that it will pursue engagement with Iran, and a number of backchannel discussions have been set into motion. But the Iranians are taking things slowly. With presidential elections approaching in June, Tehran is struggling to work out its next steps in negotiating with Washington. There is also more work to be done to prepare the Iranian public psychologically for public negotiations with the so-called “Great Satan.”

Iran’s priority right now is to convince the populace and surrounding states that Tehran is pursuing these negotiations from a position of strength. It intends to demonstrate that strength with things like satellite launches, pronouncements that wax philosophic about Iran’s nuclear achievements, and political victories in neighboring Iraq. Meanwhile, the United States is grappling with the complexities of an engagement policy through gestures such as the blacklisting of PJAK – even as Washington tries to downplay more contentious issues like Iran’s nuclear program, and to maintain a hard-line stance on sanctions.

There remains a long way to go in revising the U.S.-Iranian narrative of negotiations, but Tehran has little time to stall. The Iranians need to negotiate with the United States over common interests in Iraq, especially if they want to secure an internationally recognized sphere of influence there. Although final results are not yet known, provincial elections in Iraq this past weekend appear to have strengthened factions that complicate Iran’s ambitions there – and that, in turn, bodes well for the security situation and a U.S. drawdown. The Iranians are slowly coming to terms with the fact that Washington will have a significant stake in Baghdad well after the withdrawal, especially as figures like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are strengthening central authority at the expense of Iran’s closest Shiite allies. And even when the drawdown is complete, a residual force of probably 10,000 to 20,000 American troops will remain in Iraq, to keep the Iranians at bay and allay the fears of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Of course, there are still plenty of things for Tehran to discuss with Washington that would help Iran to break out of its isolation. The United States and its NATO allies are turning to Tehran for assistance in neighboring Afghanistan, where Iran can provide intelligence and logistical support to help contain the Taliban. Cooperation with the Americans over Afghanistan isn’t nearly as touchy a subject as cooperation over Iraq — Afghanistan hasn’t invaded Iran in recent memory, and Iraq has. But it still would mean breaking the ice publicly and sitting down for talks.
Title: Satellite launch implications
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 05, 2009, 09:10:53 AM
Second post

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Feb. 3 declared a nighttime indigenous satellite launch a success. The technology required to pull off such a launch is, by and large, also applicable to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Though responses from foreign governments have been slow to come in, such a success — if genuine — will give Tehran new leverage with the United States and Europe.

Iran claims to have inserted a small telecommunications satellite into orbit during a nighttime launch broadcast on Iranian state television Feb. 3, amid the 10-day celebration of the 30th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the country on television, calling the launch a success.

If the claims are true, the event would mark the first indigenously designed and built satellite Iran has put into orbit on its Safir Omid (“Envoy of Hope”) satellite launch vehicle (SLV), which is also indigenously designed and built. This is a feat Iran apparently failed to accomplish last August (and something North Korea just barely failed to do in 1998 with its first Taepodong SLV). While this satellite insertion is a significant development in and of itself for the Iranian missile program, it has much more far-reaching implications for Iran’s relations with other powers.

Stratfor argued two years ago that such a launch was quite feasible based on Iranian cooperation with North Korea and Pakistan in missile development. The Safir Omid has the same distinctive narrow, elongated shape as North Korea’s Taepodong series. Indeed, North Korea is currently moving its own latest Taepodong SLV to a new launch facility on the country’s northwest coast for an anticipated launch later this spring.

Both the Taepodong and the Safir Omid rely heavily on the Russian Scud design, which is itself based heavily on the Nazi V-2 from World War II and has likely been pushed beyond its inherent design limitations in many ways. A demonstration of successful staging and satellite insertion, however, is also a demonstration of rudimentary intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability. The distinction between an SLV and an ICBM is largely one of guidance and payload. (This is not to say, however, that an ICBM version of the Safir Omid would necessarily have anywhere near the range to reach the continental United States on a conventional ballistic trajectory, that it has any meaningful degree of accuracy, or that Iran is anywhere near having a nuclear device that could be mounted on it.)

For the United States, the launch certainly gives new impetus to the argument in favor of completing a pair of U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations slated to be built in Poland and the Czech Republic. While the new administration of President Barack Obama has thus far kept its position on these installations deliberately ambiguous, it will be the White House’s first major policy choice on BMD. And Iran might have just made it more difficult (though hardly impossible) to delay the building of these installations, much less to cancel them outright.

The Iranian launch also comes close on the heels of a Feb. 2 announcement by NATO that it would permit member states to make independent, bilateral arrangements with Tehran for the transit of supplies to NATO military forces in Afghanistan. The relationship between the West and Iran is complex, especially as most or all of Europe is likely within range of an Iranian ICBM version of the Safir Omid. The launch will not necessarily derail such transit talks, but Iran’s relationships with even the more amenable European powers still face significant hurdles. But as North Korea has so aptly demonstrated, such launches — in addition to serving as nationalistic fodder for domestic audiences — can have very real utility in international negotiations.
Title: Stratfor: A signal to Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 05, 2009, 09:18:36 PM
Geopolitical Diary: A U.S. Treasury Move and a Signal to Iran
February 5, 2009

The U.S. Treasury Department added the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) to its list of terrorist organizations on Wednesday. PJAK is a sister organization of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the prominent Kurdish guerrilla group that operates in Turkey and has bases in northern Iraq. PJAK also has bases in northern Iraq, but focuses its operations on northwestern Iran, where that country’s Kurdish minority is concentrated.

The timing of the Treasury move is significant. Tehran has complained for some time that the United States, in collaboration with Israeli and Western intelligence organizations, supports groups like PJAK whose aim is to undermine the stability of the Iranian regime.

And the Iranians have cause for concern. The geopolitical core of Iran, where the population is most densely concentrated, is in the mountainous northern and central regions. That geography itself creates ample opportunities for foreign rivals or domestic opponents to stir up trouble for the regime: Since only about half of the population is ethnically Persian, one of Iran’s chief security imperatives is to contain minority ethnic groups dispersed throughout the mountains. The group of biggest concern for the Iranians has been Mujahideen e-Khalq (MeK), a cult-like Islamist-Marxist rebel group with the explicit goal of overthrowing the clerical regime.

MeK fighters have been holed up in Iraq’s Diyala province, under the watch of the U.S. military – but now that U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraq in large numbers, something must done about the approximately 3,000 MeK members. Iran wants guarantees that groups like the MeK and PJAK will be neutralized. By placing PJAK on the U.S. terror list, Washington has made a symbolic move that tells Tehran that it is prepared to make certain concessions that will allow the clerical regime to rest more comfortably.

It is not clear yet how favorably the Iranians might respond to this move. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has made it clear that it will pursue engagement with Iran, and a number of backchannel discussions have been set into motion. But the Iranians are taking things slowly. With presidential elections approaching in June, Tehran is struggling to work out its next steps in negotiating with Washington. There is also more work to be done to prepare the Iranian public psychologically for public negotiations with the so-called “Great Satan.”

Iran’s priority right now is to convince the populace and surrounding states that Tehran is pursuing these negotiations from a position of strength. It intends to demonstrate that strength with things like satellite launches, pronouncements that wax philosophic about Iran’s nuclear achievements, and political victories in neighboring Iraq. Meanwhile, the United States is grappling with the complexities of an engagement policy through gestures such as the blacklisting of PJAK – even as Washington tries to downplay more contentious issues like Iran’s nuclear program, and to maintain a hard-line stance on sanctions.

There remains a long way to go in revising the U.S.-Iranian narrative of negotiations, but Tehran has little time to stall. The Iranians need to negotiate with the United States over common interests in Iraq, especially if they want to secure an internationally recognized sphere of influence there. Although final results are not yet known, provincial elections in Iraq this past weekend appear to have strengthened factions that complicate Iran’s ambitions there – and that, in turn, bodes well for the security situation and a U.S. drawdown. The Iranians are slowly coming to terms with the fact that Washington will have a significant stake in Baghdad well after the withdrawal, especially as figures like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are strengthening central authority at the expense of Iran’s closest Shiite allies. And even when the drawdown is complete, a residual force of probably 10,000 to 20,000 American troops will remain in Iraq, to keep the Iranians at bay and allay the fears of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Of course, there are still plenty of things for Tehran to discuss with Washington that would help Iran to break out of its isolation. The United States and its NATO allies are turning to Tehran for assistance in neighboring Afghanistan, where Iran can provide intelligence and logistical support to help contain the Taliban. Cooperation with the Americans over Afghanistan isn’t nearly as touchy a subject as cooperation over Iraq — Afghanistan hasn’t invaded Iran in recent memory, and Iraq has. But it still would mean breaking the ice publicly and sitting down for talks.

Title: WSJ: Germany undercuts pressure on Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 07, 2009, 07:33:22 PM

While the U.S. has ratcheted up its efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms, the Islamic Republic is reaping a windfall from European companies. These firms' deals aid a regime that is bent on developing nuclear weapons and which financially supports the terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Austrian oil giant OMV is itching to implement a €22 billion agreement signed in April 2007 to produce liquefied natural gas from Iran's South Pars gas field; at last May's annual shareholder meeting, Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer said OMV was only waiting for "political change in the U.S.A." Raiffeisen Zentralbank, Austria's third-largest bank, is active in Iran and, according to a story by the Journal's Glenn Simpson last February, has absorbed the transactions of key European banks that shut down their operations in Iran. And in late January Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Italian energy corporation Eni SpA, told the Associated Press that his firm will continue to fulfill its contractual obligations in Iran and feels no external pressure to sever ties with Iran's energy sector.

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Yet because of the sheer volume of its trade with Iran, Germany, the economic engine of Europe, is uniquely positioned to pressure Tehran. Still, the obvious danger of a nuclear-armed Iran has not stopped Germany from rewarding the country with a roughly €4 billion trade relationship in 2008, thereby remaining Iran's most important European trade partner. In the period of January to November 2008, German exports to Iran grew by 10.5% over the same period in 2007. That booming trade last year included 39 "dual-use" contracts with Iran, according to Germany's export-control office. Dual-use equipment and technology can be used for both military and civilian purposes.

One example of Germany's dysfunctional Iran policy is the energy and engineering giant Siemens. The company acknowledged last week at its annual stockholder meeting in Munich, which I attended, that it conducted €438 million in trade with Iran in 2008, and that its 290 Iran-based employees will remain active in the gas, oil, infrastructure and communications sectors.

Concerned stockholders and representatives from the political organization Stop the Bomb, a broad-based coalition in Germany and Austria seeking to prevent Iran from building a nuclear-weapons program, peppered Siemens CEO Peter Löscher with questions about the corporation's dealings with the Iranian regime. A Stop the Bomb spokesman questioned Siemens's willingness to conduct business with a country known for its human- and labor-rights violations, ranging from the violent oppression of women to the murder of gays to the repression of religious and ethnic minority groups. The spokesman referred to Siemens's Nazi-era history as an employer of forced labor from the Auschwitz extermination camp and asked how, in light of the corporation's Nazi history, the company could support an "anti-Semitic and terrorist regime" that threatens to wipe Israel off the map.

Mr. Löscher replied to the 9,500 stockholders in Olympic Hall that, "For Siemens, compliance and ethics have the highest priority, including where human-rights issues are involved." Yet, after further questions from the Stop the Bomb spokesman, he acknowledged that Siemens and its joint partner, Nokia, had delivered state-of-the-art communications surveillance technology to Iran last spring.

Information-technology experts say that the companies' "monitoring centers" are used to track mobile and land-line telephone conversations, and that their "intelligence platform" systems allow the Iranian secret service to track financial transactions and airplane movements. The technologies could also be used to monitor persecuted minority and dissident groups in Iran.

Siemens, the largest German trade partner of Iran, represents a window onto an opulent economic partnership between the two countries. German firms such as Mercedes-Benz, whose Web site lists an Iranian general distributor, and insurance giant Munich Re have also remained indifferent to the growing calls to isolate Iran economically. Yesterday, a Munich Re spokesman confirmed to me that the company insures goods in transit to Iran. This was the first such public disclosure by the firm.

And the deals just keep on coming. The Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper, for example, reported in late January that the German engineering firm Aerzen secured a contract totaling €21 million to supply process gas blowers and screw-type compressors to a steel factory in Esfahan, Iran.

All of this is taking place while Iran is moving at an astonishing pace to process high-grade uranium for its atomic bomb. Iran's launch of its first domestically produced satellite on Tuesday prompted an alarmed French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier to underscore the link between Iran's military nuclear capability and its compatibility with the satellite technology.

Trade and security experts assert that Iran cannot easily replace high-tech German engineering technology with that from competitor nations such as China and Russia. The hollow pleas by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who favors a policy of moral pressure to convince corporations to be "sensitive" about cutting new deals with the regime in Tehran, did not prevent her administration from approving over 2,800 commercial deals with Iran in 2008.

Transparency is badly needed in this area. The German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) refuses to disclose the nature of these agreements. Economics Minister Michael Glos, who oversees BAFA and is considered an advocate of trade with Iran, should reveal the names of the firms commencing trade with a country that sponsors terror organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. The German firms are hiding behind a wall of nondisclosure to avoid being blacklisted on the U.S market.

The Merkel administration heavily subsidizes investments in Iran by providing German firms with €250 million in credit guarantees. A day before the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, the German business daily Handelsblatt reported that Berlin intended to discontinue all credit guarantees supporting trade with Iran. After the report was picked up by the major media, Mrs. Merkel's spokesman quietly denied that the government had canceled the credit guarantees. This suggests that Berlin cynically leaked the story to Handelsblatt to polish its international image and repair strained relations with Israel, a country whose security Chancellor Merkel has deemed "nonnegotiable" for Germany.

There are other signs that Germany's political elites consider Iran just another trading partner. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is scheduled to visit Iran in late February, just after 10 days of celebrations in the country honoring Ayatollah Khomeini and the radical Islamic state he ushered in 30 years ago. Mr. Schröder, who plans to attend the dedication of a foundation for supporting scientific research and has opposed the imposition of sanctions on the Iranian regime, surely will not use the opportunity to criticize Germany's booming trade relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In short, while Berlin claims it wants to discourage Iran from building a nuclear bomb, it has so far done little to actually stop the bomb. German legislation prohibiting trade with Iran, coupled with an immediate cessation of credit guarantees, would decisively setback, if not stop, Iran's nuclear weapons program and set an invaluable example for other EU countries to adapt for their own companies.

Mr. Weinthal is the Jerusalem Post's correspondent in Berlin.

Title: Re: Iran
Post by: G M on February 07, 2009, 07:39:42 PM
The europeans are masters of "feed the crocodile, hoping it'll eat you last".  :roll:
Title: WSJ: Low Oil prices weaken Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 08, 2009, 07:20:11 PM
Last week Iran put its own telecommunications satellite into orbit. U.S. officials in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon were certainly right to warn that this shows that the mullahs have now mastered the technology needed to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. But the terror masters in Tehran believe the satellite has an even greater significance -- another step toward the return of the Shiite messiah, or Mahdi, the long-vanished 12th Imam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Ledeen is a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. His new book, "Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West" will be published later this year by St. Martin's Press.
Title: "Reformist" to run?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 09, 2009, 05:03:56 AM
Reformist to stand against Ahmadinejad in Iran election

Ian Black in Tehran
The Guardian, Monday 9 February 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some fear Khatami may have harmed his chances by hesitating for so long over whether to throw his hat into the ring, reinforcing his image as a has-been.
Title: BO does not believe NIE either
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 12, 2009, 07:52:30 PM
Moving GM's post to this thread:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omri Ceren’s entertaining himself by digging through the archives of nutroots blogs for gloating statements at the time about neocon fearmongering having been debunked anew. He gives them more credit than I do by assuming they really were as cretinously gullible as they seemed. I think they knew, or most of them knew, that fanatics fond of by-proxy expansionism aren’t going to risk round after round of economic sanctions just to have their very own little nuclear reactor. And so they used the NIE, in bad faith, for the purpose with which it was intended — as a political tool, to make sure Bush couldn’t take any drastic action to stop the program (which was unlikely anyway). And now, lo and behold, it’s their problem to deal with, except Iran’s that much closer to their goal. Be careful what you wish for, etc.
Title: Re: Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 20, 2009, 07:09:12 PM
When Iran successfully orbited its Omid satellite earlier this month, many in the U.S. responded with indifference. David Albright, a noted analyst of nuclear proliferation, downplayed the Iranian space launcher as "not that sophisticated" and the satellite itself as "Sputnik technology, a little metal ball that goes 'beep beep beep.'" Unnamed U.S. officials concurred, stating that "There are no alarm bells ringing because of this launch," calling the event "largely symbolic."

But such equanimity is entirely unwarranted.

Let's first look at the Omid satellite. The Iranians concede its limited capabilities. Its main payload is a simple transmitter/receiver, and it has a short lifetime limited by the capacity of its small internal batteries. At 60 pounds it is minute compared to modern military and civilian satellites. Yet as a first satellite for a novice space-faring nation, it compares well with the rudimentary Sputnik and even more so with the tiny Explorer 1, America's first venture into space. Those modest machines ushered in today's giant military and commercial satellites girdling the earth. When t