Iran-aided Militants Raise U.S. Concerns
February 29, 2008 The Baltimore Sun Liz Sly
U.S. military officials are voicing increasing concern that Iranian-backed Shiite militants are stepping up their activities in Iraq, as Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares to make a historic visit to Baghdad that is expected to reinforce Iran's expanding influence.The U.S. military refers to the shadowy, cell-like structures run by Shiite extremists as Special Groups and says their precise relationship with Iran's government isn't clear. The U.S. military is certain, however, that they receive arms, training and funding from the Quds Force, the elite and secretive foreign-operations wing of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps, and that the assistance has not paused, despite Iranian promises made last summer to help work toward stabilizing Iraq."We don't assess necessarily that the central government of Iran is behind this, but we are certain there are elements, including the Quds Force, who continue to train, finance and equip these people," said senior military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith. "The violence in many areas where they have influence has not slowed down."Recent U.S. discoveries of Iranian weapons caches have fueled suspicions that Iran is continuing to funnel weapons to the militants, though the U.S. military has not intercepted any weapons crossing the border. The capture in December of several Iraqis returning from a training camp in Iran pointed to a continued Iranian effort to train Iraq operatives, said Smith.U.S. officials had hoped that a commitment by Iran made during a series of unprecedented talks last year between the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors in Baghdad would reduce Iranian interference in Iraq. But, although violence has sharply fallen in most parts of Iraq, Iran does not appear to have curtailed its activities, officials say."They send Iraqis in [to Iran] and put them back on the border like wind-up toys. They're out there roaming around with all this training behind them, and they're very lethal," said Smith. "There's a role played by Iran in turning loose these well-trained terrorists."The spotlight will be on Iran's role in Iraq when Ahmadinejad visits Baghdad on Sunday, the first visit to Iraq by a leader of the Islamic republic. Iran and Iraq fought a bitter eight-year war in the 1980s, and the visit underscores the extent to which Iran has emerged as a key player in the affairs of its former foe since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's Sunni regime and the installation of a Shiite-dominated government.U.S. officials will be watching closely. "What we're interested in is the substance of the visit and what it is that President Ahmadinejad can say to Iraqis about what he and his government and his country will do to help Iraq with security," U.S. Embassy spokesman Phillip Reeker told reporters this week.Just as likely, however, are triumphalist statements such as the ones Ahmadinejad made yesterday, in which he declared, "Iran is the No. 1 power in the world.""Today the name of Iran means a firm punch in the teeth of the powerful, and it puts them in their place," Ahmadinejad told relatives of victims of the Iran-Iraq war.Whether Ahmadinejad has direct knowledge of the activities of the Shiite cells operating under Quds Force tutelage is something the U.S. military doesn't know. U.S. officials have been trumpeting Iranian involvement in fueling Iraq's violence for more than a year, but they have repeatedly stopped short of directly blaming Tehran.
Prisoner of a Symbol
A former detainee at Tehran's Evin prison says a generation of Americans are being fed an unfair, radicalized image of Iran.
Iraq Braces for Ahmadinejad Visit
BAGHDAD -- Hussein Athab visited Iran three times after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The political science professor took in the religious sites and admired Iraq's bigger, richer and stronger Shiite Muslim neighbor to the east
China Says 16 Billion Dollars Iran Gas Agreement Is a 'Commercial Act'
China National Offshore Oil Corp.'s 16 billion dollars plan to develop an Iranian gas field is a "commercial act,'' a Chinese official said, as pressure grows from the U.S. for fresh action over Iran's nuclear program.
U.S. Warns Europe of Iran Missiles
LONDON -- With American officials working to close a deal on a missile defense system in Europe, the head of the U.S. program warned Thursday that Iran was within two or three years of producing a missile that could reach most European capitals.
World Group Tells Banks to Beware Deals With Iran
By STEVEN R. WEISMANA leading international organization responsible for combating financial crimes urged caution dealing with Iran’s banking system because of concerns over money laundering and aid to terrorism.
Ahmadinejad Says Iran is the Number One World Power
Tehran -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared on Thursday that Iran was the world's "number one" power, as he launched a bitter new assault on domestic critics he accused of siding with the enemy. "Everybody has understood that Iran is the number one power in the world," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to families who lost loved ones in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
Iran President to Show off Influence on Iraq Visit
TEHRAN -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes a landmark trip to Iraq on Sunday seeking to show that Iran is an influential player in Iraqi politics which the United States can ill afford to isolate or ignore
Iran Sanctions Vote Faces New Delay
The UN Security Council will likely delay a vote on a third round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, as Western countries lobby for a big vote in favor
Iran's Great Victory
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated his nation earlier this week for its "great victory" following the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) report last Friday, and for good reason.
Iran to Implement Dirty Money Law
Iran's president has ordered the Economy Ministry to implement an anti-money laundering law, state TV said. The move follows international criticism of Tehran for not doing enough to fight money laundering.
Russia gives Iran a 'few days' to halt enrichment
Russia warned Iran on Wednesday that it would back further United Nations sanctions over its nuclear program unless Tehran halted uranium enrichment in the next few days.The US, Britain and France are pushing to impose new punitive measures on Iran, which they suspect of seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon.Russia's UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow could back a sanctions resolution the Western powers have drafted and which they are seeking to discuss in the Security Council this week."If Iran in the next few days does not stop the enrichment activities of its heavy-water project then yes, Russia ... has taken upon itself certain commitments ... to support the resolution that has been drafted in the past month," Churkin told reporters via video link from New York.The UN Security Council has demanded Iran halt uranium enrichment, the part of its nuclear program that most worries the West because the process can potentially be used to make material for bombs.Iran has refused to halt the work. It says it is seeking to master nuclear technology in order to produce energy.As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Islamic Republic is entitled to pursue peaceful nuclear technology, given proper observation and transparency.France and Britain have submitted a third sanctions resolution against Iran calling for measures including asset freezes and mandatory travel bans for specific Iranian officials.It also expands the list of Iranian officials and firms targeted by the sanctions. Earlier rounds of sanctions were imposed in December 2006 and March 2007.Russia, which has increasing ties to Iran's energy industry, has previously been reluctant to impose more UN sanctions on Iran.However, while pursuing new sanctions, major powers are also discussing possible moves to draw Iran into negotiations over its nuclear program, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana confirmed on Wednesday.Solana's spokeswoman, Cristina Gallach, said: "We are in the final phase of preparing a new UN resolution ... and that should be accompanied by a message to the Iranian authorities to say that the door is always open for dialogue.""It's been a debate of the political directors of the six countries," Solana said on the margins of a conference in Brussels, when asked about the possibility of new steps involving incentives to Tehran.He was referring to the five major powers of the UN Security Council - the United States, China, Russia, France and Britain - plus Germany.Political directors from the six met in Washington Monday when they agreed to move ahead soon on the additional sanctions.US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the political directors were examining how a 2006 incentives offer could be presented in a way Iran would find attractive.That offer included talks with the United States on any subject if Tehran suspended uranium enrichment; airline parts for civilian planes and dropping objections to entry to the World Trade Organization."The package of incentives for Iran could be repackaged to make it more attractive, but that does not mean we are going to add things to it," an EU diplomat told AFP, on condition of anonymity.Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran was not imminent. Israel regards Iran's nuclear program as a threat to its existence."I think there is time," said Olmert, asked by reporters during a visit to Japan whether Iran could be stopped from achieving nuclear weapons capability."The time is not unlimited but it is defined by more than months," added Olmert, whose country is not party to the NPT and is widely believed to have the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East.
Iranian president a hostage to his promises
The clerical leadership in Iran has grown increasingly reliant on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to help it stave off internal pressure for political and economic reform and external pressure resulting from international concern over Iran's nuclear program. But as the IRGC gets more involved in domestic politics, the Islamic Republic is gradually morphing into a military regime, albeit one governed by theocratic principles. The March 14, 2008,
Russia Warns Iran Over Nuclear Programme
MOSCOW -- Russia toughened its stance towards Iran on Wednesday, threatening to back further United Nations sanctions over Tehran's nuclear programme unless it halted uranium enrichment in the next few daysparliamentary elections are likely to reinforce this trend.
Iranian Official Slams President
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator rebuked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a sharp attack on Wednesday, saying the hardline president's "bombastic slogans" are hampering Iran's development and harming national interests.
Questions Persist on Iran's Nuclear Plans
Washington -- The document is 15 pages long, and among other things, it describes procedures for fabricating hemispheres of uranium metal – key components for a nuclear weapon.
Iran Agents 'Sabotaging' Anti-al-Qaeda Groups
Iranian secret service agents are working to "sabotage" the operations of groups fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Baghdad's intelligence chief said overnight. Mohammed Abdullah Shahwani issued the statement shortly before a landmark visit to Baghdad on Sunday by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Reflections on Iranian-American Dialogue
February 27, 2008 Iran va Jahan Reza Bayegan
An Iranian friend was saying that every time he has had the opportunity of meeting with American politicians, he has been impressed by their courtesy, humanity and their concern for taking the right and honourable path in relation to our country. Contrary to the rhetoric dished out to the Iranian public by their rulers, Americans are not after destroying Iran. In meeting with various Iranians they try hard to find out what to do with a country whose fanatical rulers by no means represent its forward looking and peaceful population.As far as the official position of the Iranian government is concerned, meeting with Americans is heretical. American politicians are branded as evil and to dialogue with them is to betray our national interests. Nevertheless, in order to save their own skins, Iran’s dictators have in the past talked covertly to the Americans and even had secret dealings with their arch enemy Israel during the Iran-Iraq war. Accordingly their refusal to talk to Americans like the rest of their positions is a matter of expedience and not principal. For the sake of argument however, let us assume that there are hardliners within the Islamic Republic who sincerely (not expediently) believe that talking to Americans is harmful to Iran’s earthly interests (And here of course I am not addressing those people who think that talking to the « great Satan » will contaminate them and bar them from entering into the kingdom of heaven). Such hardliners are ignorant of the fact that international relations are not about demonizing or romanticizing various countries. International negotiations are governed by well-defined rules and well-established ethics. Within those rules one has to be able to manoeuvre and strike a profitable bargain for the country one represents. One also has to start from the premise that one’s counterpart or counterparts are after protecting their own interests and securing their own objectives. The intellectually indolent Iranian fundamentalist who is averse to clear thinking finds it convenient to refer to all Americans as imperialists and shuns the idea of any contact with them. He has lived in an atmosphere where decisions are made by edicts and not through discussions and debates. Dictatorship has eroded his capacity for dialogue and any meaningful exchange of ideas. ‘Dialogue Among Civilizations’ was an idea proposed to the United Nations by Mr Khatami, the former president of the Islamic Republic. Ironically it was during the watch of this same president that a score of Iranian intellectuals were slaughtered and a number of dissenting university students were murdered and thrown out of their dormitory windows. In spite of all his smooth talking what he understood and meant by dialogue was that we talk and everyone else sits at the bottom of the pulpit and listens.The psychology of an Iranian fanatic (like any other fanatic) is the psychology of fear, and exclusion. Exclusion of those possibilities of life, which require judgment and moral courage. An Iranian fanatic not only is afraid of Americans, he is also in a state of consternation about anything that entails making a choice one way or the other. He cannot trust himself to look at any girl beyond the age of puberty without a dirty motive so he makes it a law that forces all females to cover themselves up and refuses to shake hands with a woman for fear of being corrupted. He cannot trust himself to hold his own vis-à-vis an American or British official and therefore pigeonholes them all as evil and considers any meaningful contact with them reprehensible.A healthy courageous mind has nothing to fear from encounters and engagements. A self-confident Iranian understands that when we meet Americans and people of any other nationalities with trust in our own abilities to talk to them on an equal footing and endeavour first and foremost to protect our own country's interests, there is nothing to be frightened of. Some well-meaning Iranians who argue that we should go it alone and that we don’t need to talk or consult with anyone in bringing about liberty and democracy to our country also suffer from a variation of the same malady. They can be compared to a person who is trying to learn how to ride a bicycle and by stubbornly refusing everyone’s instruction invites all sorts of dangers. Imagine what would have happened if the Americans had refused the helping hands of foreigners like Thomas Paine or General Lafayette in securing their independence. The truth of the matter is that the cause of justice and liberty enlists all men in a universal effort and no one is asked to produce a passport in helping his or her fellow-human beings to rid themselves of oppression and tyranny anywhere in the world.Finally, how do we answer the oft-asked question of some Americans regarding whether or not they should talk to the Islamic Republic? The reality of it is that Iranian rulers are clever enough to know that talking to Americans and the representatives of the free world would only expose their own moral and intellectual flaws and would deprive them of their best excuse to keep the country closed and isolated. The moment they let down that guard, there goes their raison d'être as missionaries of anti-Americanism and their role as the godfather of international terrorism. They would lose their control over a population impatient for democracy, meritocracy and change.
Rice Offers Iran Prospect of Normal Ties
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday she believed the nuclear stand-off with Iran could be resolved diplomatically but that Tehran must not be allowed to become a nuclear weapons power. Just one day after getting agreement on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution against Tehran, Rice offered the incentive of a "more normal relationship" and expanded trade if Iran gave up sensitive nuclear work, according to the prepared text of her speech to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland."Ultimately, though, we believe that we can resolve this problem through diplomacy," Rice said according to the text, which was distributed by conference organizers."If Iran would suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities - which is an international demand, not just an American one - then we could begin negotiations, and we could work over time to build a new, more normal relationship," she said.Rice said this new relationship could be defined not by fear and mistrust but growing cooperation, expanding trade and exchange, and the peaceful resolution of differences.In a conciliatory note after weeks of anti-Iranian rhetoric by the Bush administration, Rice said the United States had no desire for Iran to be a "permanent enemy"."Iranians are a proud people with a great culture, and we respect the contributions they have made to world civilization," she said.But she said Washington had real differences with Iran's government, from its pursuit of a nuclear weapon to support for terrorism and what the United States sees as Tehran's destabilizing policies in Iraq.Rice said that agreement reached between foreign ministers of major powers in Berlin on Tuesday for a third sanctions resolution showed that the world remained united over not wanting Iran to become a nuclear weapons power."We will continue to hold Iran to its international obligations," said Rice.