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Thread: Iran the Next Battlefield - Thread Renamed

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    Default Iran the Next Battlefield - Thread Renamed

    Iran Suicide Bombers Sign up for Attacks Against the U.S.
    Iran Focus ^ | March 29, 2006 | Iran Focus


    Tehran, Iran, Mar. 29 – Radical Islamists in Iran’s western province of Lorestan were invited during a ceremony on Wednesday to enlist in garrisons to carry out suicide attacks against the United States.

    The People’s Headquarters in Continuation of the Path of the Martyrs in Lorestan, a newly-founded government-backed group, began enlisting “martyrdom-seeking volunteers” to “confront possible threats by America and the West” against Iran.

    (Excerpt) Read more at iranfocus.com ...
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    Default Re: Iran Suicide Bombers Sign up for Attacks Against the U.S.

    Iran Is at War with Us Someone should tell the U.S. government.
    NRO ^ | 03/28/06 | Michael Ledeen

    Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, is dying of cancer. But he is convinced that his legacy will be glorious. He believes that thousands of his Revolutionary Guards intelligence officers effectively control southern Iraq, and that the rest of the country is at his mercy, since we present no challenge to them — even along the Iraq/Iran border, where they operate with impunity. They calmly plan their next major assault without having to worry about American retribution. The mullahs have thousands of intelligence officers all over Iraq, as well as a hard core of Hezbollah terrorists — including the infamous Imadh Mughniyah, arguably the region’s most dangerous killer — and they control the major actors, from Zarqawi to Sadr to the Badr Brigades.

    Khamenei and his top cronies believe they have effectively won. They think the U.S. is politically paralyzed, thanks to the relentless attacks of President Bush’s opponents and the five-year long internal debate about Iran policy, and thus there is no chance of an armed attack, even one limited to nuclear sites. They think Israel is similarly paralyzed by Sharon’s sudden departure and the triumph of their surrogate force, Hamas, in the Palestinian elections. They despise the Europeans, and hardly even bother to pretend to negotiate with them any more. They believe they have a strong strategic alliance with the Russians and they think they have the Chinese over a barrel, since the Chinese are so heavily dependent on Iranian oil. Recent statements from Beijing and Moscow regarding the chance of U.N. sanctions will have reinforced the Supreme Leader’s convictions.

    Hapless in the Beltway Above all, Khamenei believes he has broken the American will, for which he sees two pieces of evidence. The first is that there seems to be very little American resolve to do anything about punishing Iran for the enormous traffic of weapons, poisons, and terrorists into Iraq from Iran. Khamenei must inclined to believe that the Bush administration has no stomach for confrontation.

    We have done nothing to make the mullahs’ lives more difficult, even though there is abundant evidence for Iranian involvement in Iraq, most including their relentless efforts to kill American soldiers. The evidence consists of first-hand information, not intelligence reports. Scores of Iranian intelligence officers have been arrested, and some have confessed. Documentary evidence of intimate Iranian involvement with Iraqi terrorists has been found all over Iraq, notably in Fallujah and Hilla. But the "intelligence" folks at the Pentagon, led by the hapless Secretary Stephen Cambone, seem to have no curiosity, as if they were afraid of following the facts to their logical conclusion: Iran is at war with us.

    In early March, to take one recent example, several vehicles crossed from Iranian Kurdistan into Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iraqis stopped them. There was a firefight. The leader of the intruding group was captured and is now in prison, held by one of the Kurdish factions. The Kurds say that the vehicles contained poison gas, which they have in their possession. They say they informed the Turks, who said they did not want to know anything about it (the Turks don’t want anything to do with the Kurds, period, and they shrink from confrontation with the mullahs).

    The Kurds holding this man say that he confessed to working for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Apparently they have his confession. They say they are willing to make him available to U.S. military personnel. But the Pentagon, which has all this information, has not pursued the matter. This is just one of many cases in which the Iranians believe they see the Americans running away from confrontation.

    The second encouraging sign for Khamenei is the barely concealed delight in Washington, including Secretary Rice’s recent statement at a press conference, that we will soon be negotiating with Iran about Iraq. This mission has been entrusted to Ambassador Khalilzad, who previously worked with the Iranians when he represented us in Kabul. It is a bad decision, and it is very hard to explain. The best one can say is that Khalilzad speaks Farsi, so he will know what they are saying, and it is probably better to have public dealings than the secret contacts this administration has been conducting all along. But those small bright spots do not compensate for the terrible costs the very announcement of negotiations produces for us, for the Iranian people, and for the region as a whole.

    Talk Does Not Thwart Iran has been at war with us for 27 years, and we have discussed every imaginable subject with them. We have gained nothing, because there is nothing to be gained by talking with an enemy who thinks he is winning. From Khamenei’s standpoint, the only thing to be negotiated is the terms of the American surrender, and he is certainly not the only Middle Eastern leader to take this view; most of the leaders in the region dread the power of the mullahs — now on the doorstep of nuclear military weapons — and they see the same picture as Khamenei: America does nothing to thwart Iran, and is now publicly willing to talk. In like manner, many Iranians will conclude that Bush is going to make a deal with Khamenei instead of giving them the support they want and need to challenge the regime.

    If this administration were true to its announced principles, we would be actively supporting democratic revolution in Iran, but we do not seem to be serious about doing that. Yes, Secretary Rice went to Congress to ask for an extra $75 million to "support democracy" in Iran, but the small print shows that the first $50 million will go to the toothless tigers at the Voice of America and other official American broadcasters, which is to say to State Department employees. The Foreign Service does not often drive revolutionary movements; its business is negotiating with foreign governments, not subverting them. There were whispers that we were supporting trade unions in Iran, which would be very good news, but such efforts should be handled by private-sector organizations, not by the American government per se.

    Yet this seems a particularly good moment to rally to the side of the Iranian people, who are known to loathe the regime of Ayatollah Khamenei, and who are showing their will to resist in very dramatic fashion. About ten days ago, seventy-eight regime officials were killed or captured in Baluchistan when a convoy (including the chief of the region’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and the regional governor) was attacked. Some of the captives have been shown on al-Jazeera, pleading for cooperation from the regime, and supporting their captors’ demands that five Baluchi prisoners be freed. The regime has responded by accusing the United States and Britain of masterminding the operation, which is the second such strike in the past six months. In addition to calling for the release of Baluchi prisoners, the insurgents are calling for the toleration of Baluchi Sunnis, the appointment of locals (instead of Persian Shiites) to govern the region, and the use of local radio and television.

    Caring about Carnage The situation in Kurdistan is likewise extremely tense. The city of Mahabad is now surrounded by the regime’s military and paramilitary forces, following the eruption of anti-regime demonstrations on the occasion of Persian New Year’s celebrations on March 20. It is impossible to get precise figures — Western journalists don’t seem to be able to cover such events — but dozens of Kurds were arrested and many more were beaten up in the streets.

    Worst of all is the ongoing campaign of ethnic cleansing directed against the Ahwaz Arabs in Khuzestan, where up to three divisions of the army, the Revolutionary Guards, and the infamous thugs of the Basij have been deployed, following the sabotage of a major oil pipeline by anti-regime dissidents. Radio Farda, our official Farsi-language station, quoted a local journalist, Mr. Mojtaba Gehestani, who says that 28,000 Ahwazi Arabs have been jailed in the past ten months, hundreds have been summarily executed, and many corpses have been fished out of the Karoon River, with telltale marks of torture.

    Nonetheless, the regime’s interior minister recently announced that there is no "ethnic problem or issue" in Iran today. But he has quite clearly failed to convince President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that all is well. The president cancelled trips to the region four times in the past few months.

    He and his cronies have a lot to worry about, because the Iranian people, in the face of a vicious wave of repression that recalls the worst moments of this dreadful regime, are showing themselves prepared to stand against it, and to move to remove it. Lacking a full picture, we should base our judgment at least in part on the behavior of the mullahs, and their dispatch of so many armed forces to three different regions suggests they are profoundly worried. This is not a good time to throw the mullahs a diplomatic lifeline. We should instead show them and their democratic enemies that the tide of history is running against them.

    It’s time to take action against Iran and its half-brother Syria, for the carnage they have unleashed against us and the Iraqis. We know in detail the location of terrorist training camps run by the Iranian and Syrian terror masters; we should strike at them, and at the bases run by Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards as staging points for terrorist sorties into Iraq. No doubt the Iraqi armed forces would be delighted to participate, instead of constantly playing defense in their own half of the battlefield. And there are potent democratic forces among the Syrian people as well, as worthy of our support as the Iranians.

    Once the mullahs and their terrorist allies see that we have understood the nature of this war, that we are determined to promote regime change in Tehran and Damascus, and will not give them a pass on their murderous activities in Iraq, then it might make sense to talk to Khamenei’s representatives. We could even expand the agenda from Iraqi matters to the real issue: we could negotiate their departure, and then turn to the organization of national referenda on the form of free governments, and elections to empower the former victims of a murderous and fanatical tyranny that has deluded itself into believing that it is invincible.

    — 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
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    Default Re: Iran Suicide Bombers Sign up for Attacks Against the U.S.

    U.S. appeals to Iraq's top cleric to help end political impasse
    Knight Ridder ^ | March 28 2006 | Nancy A. Youssef and Warren P. Strobel

    U.S. officials sent a message this week to Iraq's senior religious cleric asking that he help end the impasse over forming a new Iraqi government and strongly implying that the prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, should withdraw his candidacy for re-election, according to American officials.

    The unusual decision by the White House to reach out to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani suggested how eager the Bush administration is to jump-start negotiations that have failed to produce Iraq's first permanent postwar government more than three months after national elections.

    But by contacting the revered Shiite Muslim leader, the administration risks further angering Iraqi leaders, who already complain that the United States is interfering too much with the process.

    During a news conference Tuesday, Salim al-Maliki, the minister of transportation and a member of the dominant United Iraqi Alliance, said al-Jaafari was still the slate's candidate.

    "We do not accept interference by the United States or any other foreign body because it is an internal decision of United Iraqi Alliance," al-Maliki said.

    In Washington, two officials confirmed that the United States had passed a message through a third party to the reclusive al-Sistani, Iraq's top cleric and, in some ways, its ultimate political arbiter.

    It wasn't known whether al-Jafaari was mentioned by name. But the clear message was that the prime minister's bid to keep his job was creating an impasse and the way to end it was for him to withdraw, one official said.

    (Excerpt) Read more at realcities.com ...
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    Default Re: Iran Suicide Bombers Sign up for Attacks Against the U.S.

    Iran puts Revolutionary Guards on alert on Iraq border
    Iran Focus ^ | 2006 Mar 29

    Tehran, Iran, Mar. 28 – Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces in western and south-western Iran close to the Iraqi border have been put on a heightened state of alert since the middle of this month, a source in the Iranian military told Iran Focus.

    The Supreme Command of Iran’s Armed Forces issued the directive to Najaf and Karbala garrisons of the IRGC, which are respectively based in Kermanshah and Khuzestan provinces and are the headquarters of IRGC forces in western and south-western Iran.

    The directive took effect from March 14, according to the source, who requested anonymity.

    Najaf and Karbala garrisons are the primary Revolutionary Guards headquarters responsible for Iraqi affairs and house much of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force whose stated objective is to spread Iran’s Islamic Revolution to Iraq and other countries in the Middle East.

    Under the rules of Iran’s armed forces, the decision to raise the military alert status along Iraq’s borders must have been approved by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the commander in chief of the armed forces. Khamenei visited areas close to the Iraqi border in Iran’s restive province of Khuzistan last week and delivered a speech in Arabic, slamming the United States and Britain for their occupation of Iraq.

    On Sunday, Khamenei told thousands of Islamist militiamen in Tehran that threats of military action against the Islamic republic “could be put into action in some cases, but a nation that retains its greatness, dignity, identity and interests will be able to withstand such attacks without any retreat”.

    “The decision [to put the armed forces on alert along the Iraqi border] could be defensive or offensive in nature, but it’s significant because of its timing”, said Ehsan Pourhaydari, a former colonel in Iran’s regular armed forces who now lives in Germany. “It coincides with impending talks between Iran and the U.S. on the situation in Iraq. The ayatollahs must be calculating that the talks will make them more vulnerable, or will provide new opportunities for them in Iraq. Either way, it would make sense for them to put their forces on alert close to the Iraqi border”.

    On the home front, Iran’s clerical rulers have been facing unremitting anti-government protests in Tehran and other major cities and violent confrontations in the Arab-dominated south-western province of Khuzestan, the western province of Kurdistan, and the mainly Sunni south-eastern province of Baluchistan.

    Najaf and Karbala garrisons are key nerve centres for Iran’s extensive meddling in Iraq. Qods Force officers as well as operatives of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) based in the two garrisons routinely cross the Iran-Iraq border.
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    Default Re: Iran the Next Battlefield - Thread Renamed

    I just got some news that was a bit shocking to me. I'm not going to give the details because it involves military movements and some supposition on my part, but knowing what I now know, I just changed this thread's title from what I originally started.

    I believe we will see something big happening within about 2-3 months. I believe that we and Britain are about to embark on another massive chat session with Iran. The UN Security Council is apparently on it's last best diplomatic attempt with Iran over the nuclear situation.

    If you read the messages I've posted in the past two days, you will note that the country is definitely caught up in some kind of sway toward obtaining nukes at all costs. I think we're about to see some serious ass-kicking coming down the line shortly.

    I also just posted a note regarding Saudi obtaining nuclear weapons and long range missiles from Pakistan. At this point, we're looking at what I believe might be the major flashpoint for a nuclear strike on Israel.

    The United States WILL NOT sit by and idlly wait for Israel to defend itself I think.

    We will jump in with both feet.

    As Toby Keith said so eloquently,

    Justice will be served
    And the battle will rage
    This big dog will fight
    When you rattle his cage
    And you’ll be sorry that you messed with
    The U.S. of A.....

    `Cause we`ll put a boot in your ass

    It`s the American way
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    Default Re: Iran the Next Battlefield - Thread Renamed

    Fool Me Twice
    By Joseph Cirincione

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/c...?story_id=3416

    Posted March 27, 2006
    I used to think that the Bush administration wasn’t seriously considering a military strike on Iran, because it would only accelerate Iran’s nuclear program. But what we're seeing and hearing on Iran today seems awfully familiar. That may be because some U.S. officials have already decided they want to hit Iran hard.

    Does this story line sound familiar? The vice president of the United States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in the Middle East. The U.S. secretary of state tells congress that the same nation is our most serious global challenge. The secretary of defense calls that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism. The president blames it for attacks on U.S. troops. The intelligence agencies say the nuclear threat from this nation is 10 years away, but the director of intelligence paints a more ominous picture. A new U.S. national security strategy trumpets preemptive attacks and highlights the country as a major threat. And neoconservatives beat the war drums, as the cable media banner their stories with words like “countdown” and “showdown.”

    The nation making headlines today, of course, is Iran, not Iraq. But the parallels are striking. Three years after senior administration officials systematically misled the nation into a disastrous war, they could well be trying to do it again.

    Nothing is clear, yet. For months, I have told interviewers that no senior political or military official was seriously considering a military attack on Iran. In the last few weeks, I have changed my view. In part, this shift was triggered by colleagues with close ties to the Pentagon and the executive branch who have convinced me that some senior officials have already made up their minds: They want to hit Iran.

    I argued with my friends. I pointed out that a military strike would be disastrous for the United States. It would rally the Iranian public around an otherwise unpopular regime, inflame anti-American anger around the Muslim world, and jeopardize the already fragile U.S. position in Iraq. And it would accelerate, not delay, the Iranian nuclear program. Hard-liners in Tehran would be proven right in their claim that the only thing that can deter the United States is a nuclear bomb. Iranian leaders could respond with a crash nuclear program that could produce a bomb in a few years.

    My friends reminded me that I had said the same about Iraq—that I was the last remaining person in Washington who believed President George W. Bush when he said that he was committed to a diplomatic solution. But this time, it is the administration’s own statements that have convinced me. What I previously dismissed as posturing, I now believe may be a coordinated campaign to prepare for a military strike on Iran.

    The unfolding administration strategy appears to be an effort to repeat its successful campaign for the Iraq war. It is now trying to link Iran to the 9/11 attacks by repeatedly claiming that Iran is the main state sponsor of terrorism in the world (though this suggestion is highly questionable). It is also attempting to make the threat urgent by arguing that Iran might soon pass a “point of no return” if it can perfect the technology of enriching uranium, even though many other nations have gone far beyond Iran’s capabilities and stopped their programs short of weapons. And, of course, it is now publicly linking Iran to the Iraqi insurgency and the improvised explosive devices used to kill and maim U.S. troops in Iraq, though Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace admitted there is no evidence to support this claim.

    If diplomacy fails, the administration might be able to convince leading Democrats to back a resolution for the use of force against Iran. Many Democrats have been trying to burnish a hawkish image and place themselves to the right of the president on this issue. They may find themselves trapped by their own rhetoric, particularly those with presidential ambitions.

    The factual debate during the next six months will revolve around the threat assessment. How close is Iran to developing the ability to enrich uranium for fuel or bombs? Is there a secret weapons program? Are there secret underground facilities? What would it mean if small-scale enrichment experiments succeed?

    Fortunately, we know more about Iran’s nuclear program now than we ever knew about Iraq’s (or, for that matter, those of India, Israel, and Pakistan). International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have been in Iran for more than 3 years investigating all claims of weapons-related work. The United States has satellite reconnaissance, covert programs, and Iranian dissidents providing further information. The key now is to get all this information on the table for an open debate.

    The administration should now declassify the information it used to estimate how long it will be until Iran has the capability to make a bomb. The Washington Post reported last August that this national intelligence estimate says Iran is a decade away. We need to see the basis for this judgment and all, if any, dissenting opinions. The congressional intelligence committees should be conducting their own reviews of the assessments, including open hearings with independent experts and IAEA officials. Influential groups, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, should conduct their own sessions and studies.

    An accurate and fully understood assessment of the status and potential of Iran’s nuclear program is the essential basis for any policy. We cannot let the political or ideological agenda of a small group determine a national security decision that could create havoc in a critical area of the globe. Not again.

    Joseph Cirincione is director for non-proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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    Default Re: Iran the Next Battlefield - Thread Renamed

    Britain rejects military action against Iran
    world peace herald ^ | March 28, 2006 | Hannah K. Strange

    LONDON -- Military action against Iran is neither appropriate nor conceivable, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted Tuesday.

    Speaking in London as he launched a Foreign Office white paper outlining Britain's international strategy for the coming decade, Straw moved to allay fears that the current stand-off over Iran's alleged bid for nuclear weapons technology would lead to "another Iraq."

    Despite the failure of the United Nations Security Council to reach any agreement on how to deal with Iran's nuclear programs at last week's meeting, the foreign secretary maintained that there was a "growing international consensus in the face of Iran's intransigence."

    Straw acknowledged that it would be "hard-going" to secure the backing of all Security Council members for a resolution against Iran. However, he hoped it would be possible to agree "the next step" when the five permanent members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- and Germany met in Berlin Thursday, he said.

    Countries had "different interests" in Iran, he continued, alluding to Russia's $1 billion contract to build Iran's first atomic reactor at Bushehr and China's heavy reliance on Iranian oil exports for its energy supplies.

    Both countries have so far rejected punitive action against the Islamic Republic, fearing that sanctions, economic or otherwise, could harm such interests.

    Straw said there were also "anxieties, which we have to acknowledge, as to whether the strategy which the European Three are following with the backing of the United States is going to lead to the possibility of "another Iraq."

    "So that's why it takes time."

    But, he insisted: "As to the possibility of this being 'another Iraq,' it won't.

    "I don't regard military action as appropriate or indeed conceivable."

    However, there appears to be a split within the British government over the efficacy of retaining the threat of military force.

    Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Feb. 7 he could not rule out the possibility of taking military action against Iran over its nuclear programs.

    During questioning by a committee of senior parliamentarians, Blair said that while military action was "not on the agenda," he could "never say never."

    Senior Foreign Office officials also appear keen to preserve the military option. A government memo reported by the Times of London last week suggested that Britain was pressing for a U.N. resolution that would pave the way for sanctions or possible force against Iran should it fail to halt its nuclear program.

    The letter detailed a strategy to persuade Russia and China to back a Chapter VII resolution that would require the United Nations to act should Tehran refuse to comply.

    Despite the insistence of the foreign secretary just three days earlier that military action was "inconceivable," the letter, written by Foreign Office Political Director John Sawyers on March 16, recommended "more serious measures."

    "(The Iranians) will need to know that more serious measures are likely," Sawyers wrote to his U.S., German and French counterparts. "This means putting the Iran dossier on to a Chapter VII basis."

    He suggested making a suspension of all uranium enrichment by Tehran "a mandatory requirement of the Security Council, in a resolution we would aim to adopt, I say, early May."

    Sawyers, who served as Britain's envoy to Iraq following the 2003 invasion, recommended a dual strategy in order to persuade Russia and China to sign up to the resolution.

    "We are not going to bring the Russians and Chinese to accept significant sanctions over the coming months, certainly not without further efforts to bring the Iranians around," he wrote.

    "In parallel with agreeing a new proposal, we will also want to bind Russia and China into agreeing to further measures that will be taken by the Security Council should the Iranians fail to engage positively."

    In light of such reports, Moscow and Beijing will be wary that British assurances that military action is not on the agenda are simply aimed at persuading them to sign up to a strongly-worded resolution.

    The United States has been unwilling to rule out the possibility of using force against Iran. While President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have insisted that they favor the diplomatic route to convince Iran to halt its nuclear programs, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has made clear he regards force as a serious option.

    The following day, Bolton reportedly told a committee of British parliamentarians that Iran's nuclear program could be brought to a halt with carefully-targeted military strikes. "We can hit different points along the line," the envoy said, according to committee members present. "You only have to take out one part of their nuclear operation to take the whole thing down."

    Tehran has threatened to retaliate should the United States choose to follow a military path against it.

    He insisted Iran was being open about its nuclear activities but suggested that could change should it be threatened with military force. "Any threat or potential threat will create a very complicated situation," said Iran's envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    Sam Gardiner, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and military strategy expert, told the same conference that Washington did not believe the Security Council would agree on a way forward, and was likely to make a "serious decision" on the military option before the November elections.

    Any operation would take less than five days and probably involve Stealth bombers, he said, before adding that his analysis had led him to conclude it would not be successful.

    Whether Britain would support such an operation is as yet unclear, where there is little enthusiasm for another military intervention in the Middle East and, following the Iraq debacle, a serious lack of trust in British and U.S. intelligence.

    For now, the government appears to be performing a diplomatic balancing act, attempting to dispel fears of a rush to war while simultaneously preparing for it.
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    Default Re: Iran the Next Battlefield - Thread Renamed

    Rice: Iran A Menace Beyond Nuclear Issue
    The Guardian (UK) ^ | 3-29-2006 | Anne Gearan

    Rice: Iran a Menace Beyond Nuclear Issue

    Wednesday March 29, 2006 1:31 AM

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlates...717582,00.html

    By ANNE GEARAN

    AP Diplomatic Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Tuesday that Iran was a menace for reasons other than its alleged drive to build a nuclear bomb and that the U.S. and its allies have ``a number of tools'' if Tehran does not change its ways.

    ``I think there's no doubt that Iran is the single biggest threat from a state that we face,'' Rice told a Senate panel.

    She claimed strong international backing for the U.S. position that Iran must not be allowed to continue what she claimed is a covert effort to gain bomb-making expertise and technology.

    ``We need now to broaden that thinking and that coalition, not just to what Iran is doing on the nuclear side but also what they're doing on terrorism,'' Rice said. ``Those are some of the discussions that I have with these same states.''

    She repeated claims that Iran is meddling in Iraq, bankrolling terrorism in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and repressing its people.

    ``We have a number of tools, I think, at our disposal, including in sharpening the contradiction between the Iranian people and a regime that does not represent them,'' Rice said. The $75 million that has been requested to promote democracy in Iran could be used for that fight, she said.

    Options could include other measures at the U.N. Security Council to ``further isolate the Iranian government,'' Rice said.

    She did not elaborate. The reference could cover a variety of international punishments that the United States has said it would not seek as a first option. Russia and China, allies of Iran with veto power in the council, have said they oppose penalizing Iran.

    The council soon may hand the United States a partial victory after weeks of deadlock. Its permanent members were making progress toward a written rebuke of Iran over its nuclear program; Iran insists the program is intended only to produce electricity.

    Late Tuesday, Britain and France, backed by the United States, circulated among council members their latest draft of a proposed statement. The draft makes significant concessions to Russia and China, though diplomats said differences remain.

    The council planned to meet Wednesday to discuss the draft.

    At the Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Rice was not asked about the potential for a U.S. or international military strike against Iran. The Bush administration says that option remains on the table in theory, but it is pursuing only diplomatic solutions now.

    The United States has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

    Washington long accused the clerical government of exporting terrorism. European nations, Russia, China and others have diplomatic, trade and other ties to Iran. Rice suggested that at least some allies will agree to try to isolate Iran if the nuclear standoff continues.

    Russia and China allowed Iran's case to move to the Security Council this month, which was seen as a diplomatic success for the United States. Since then, however, those nations opposed draft versions of the written rebuke.

    ``We've been able to bring the Russians along to a degree but we've had to work harder on that and on the Chinese,'' Rice said.

    She suggested that the hardline leader Iran elected last year is his own worst enemy, noting that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made fiercely anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements.

    ---

    Associated Press reporter Nick Wadhams at the United Nations contributed to this report.

    ^---
    Last edited by American Patriot; March 29th, 2006 at 18:41.
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    Iran Hard-Line Regime Cracks Down on Blogs
    Yahoo News & AP ^ | March 28, 2006 | LARA SUKHTIAN

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - On his last visit to Iran, Canadian-based blogger Hossein Derakhshan was detained and interrogated, then forced to sign a letter of apology for his blog writings before being allowed to leave the country. Compared to others, Derakhshan is lucky.

    *end*

    Dozens of Iranian bloggers have faced harassment by the government, been arrested for voicing opposing views, and fled the country in fear of prosecution over the past two years.

    In the conservative Islamic Republic, where the government has vast control over newspapers and the airwaves, weblogs are one of the last bastions of free expression, where people can speak openly about everything from sex to the nuclear controversy. But increasingly, they are coming under threat of censorship.

    The Iranian blogging community, known as Weblogistan, is relatively new. It sprang to life in 2001 after hard-liners — fighting back against a reformist president — shut down more than 100 newspapers and magazines and detained writers. At the time, Derakhshan posted instructions on the Internet in Farsi on how to set up a weblog.

    *end*

    Since then, the community has grown dramatically. Although exact figures are not known, experts estimate there are between 70,000 and 100,000 active weblogs in Iran. The vast majority are in Farsi but a few are in English.

    Overall, the percentage of Iranians now blogging is "gigantic," said Curt Hopkins, director of an online group called the Committee to Protect Bloggers, who lives in Seattle.

    "They are a talking people, very intellectual, social, and have a lot to say. And they are up against a small group (in the government) that are trying to shut everyone up," said Hopkins.

    *end*

    To bolster its campaign, the Iranian government has one of the most extensive and sophisticated operations to censor and filter Internet content of any country in the world — second only to China, Hopkins said.

    It also is one of a growing number of Mideast countries that rely on U.S. commercial software to do the filtering, according to a 2004 study by a group called the OpenNet Initiative. The software that Iran uses blocks both internationally hosted sites in English and local sites in Farsi, the study found.

    The filtering process is backed by laws that force individuals who subscribe to Internet service providers to sign a promise not to access non-Islamic sites. The same laws also force the providers to install filtering mechanisms.

    The filtering "is systematically getting worse," said Derakhshan, who was detained and questioned during a visit to Iran last spring, just before the election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    But is the government threatened because the tens of thousands of Iranian blogs are all throwing insults at it, or calling for revolution? Not quite.

    *end*

    The debates on Iranian weblogs are rarely political. The most common issues are cultural, social and sexual. Blogs also are a good place to chat in a society where young men and women cannot openly date. There are blogs that discuss women's issues, and ones that deal with art and photography.

    But in Iran, activists say all debates are equally perceived as a threat by the authorities. Bloggers living in Iran understand that better than anyone else.

    "I am very careful. Every blogger in Iran who writes in his/her name must be careful. I know the red lines and I never go beyond them," said Parastoo Dokouhaki, 25, who runs one of Iran's most popular blogs. "And these days, the red lines are getting tighter."

    Dokouhaki doesn't directly write about politics. She sticks mostly to social issues, but in Iran, that is also a taboo subject.

    "I write about the social consequences of government decisions and they don't like it, because they can't control it," said Dokouhaki.

    Outright political bloggers have an even tougher time.

    Hanif Mazroui was arrested in 1994 and charged with acting against the Islamic system through his writings. He was jailed for 66 days and then acquitted.

    "It's normal for authorities to summon and threaten bloggers," said Mazroui. The government continued to harass him and three months ago, he was summoned once again by the authorities and told never to write about the nuclear issue. Soon after his release, he shut down his weblog.

    "They kept pressuring me," he said.

    Arash Sigarchi, an Iranian journalist and blogger, was arrested and charged with insulting the country's leader, collaborating with the enemy, writing propaganda against the Islamic state and encouraging people to jeopardize national security.

    He had been in jail for 60 days when he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He appealed, and was released on bail. Although his sentence has been reduced to three years, he still faces charges of insulting the leader and writing propaganda.

    Another, Mojtaba Saminejad, has been in prison since February 2005. He was first arrested in November 2004 for speaking out against the arrest of three colleagues. According to the Committee to Protect Bloggers, Saminejad's Web site was hacked into by people linked to the Iranian Hezbollah movement.

    After his release, he launched his blog at a new address, which led to his second arrest in February 2005. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and then given an extra 10 months for inciting "immorality."

    Despite the crackdown, most Iranian bloggers say the government is not interested in eliminating blogging. Instead, they believe authorities want to use blogging to further their own goals.

    Farid Pouya, a Belgian-based Iranian blogger, notes the government has just launched a competition for the best four blogs. The subjects: the Islamic revolution and the Quran.

    "The government has observed carefully and learned that blogs are important ... and they want to capitalize on that," she said. "They want to lead the movement, they want to control it."

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060328/...MwBHNlYwM3Mzg-
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    Military force can't destroy our atomic program: Iran
    reuters ^ | Mar 27, 2006 | By Louis Charbonneau

    http://today.reuters.com/news/newsAr...archived=False

    BERLIN (Reuters) - Military strikes against Iran's nuclear sites would not destroy the Islamic republic's uranium enrichment activities, which could be easily moved and restarted, a senior Iranian official said on Monday.

    "You know very well ... we can enrich uranium anywhere in the country, with a vast country of more than 1 million 600 square kilometers," said Aliasghar Soltaniyeh, Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

    "Enrichment can be done anywhere in Iran," he told a panel discussion on the possible use of military force to destroy what the West fears is Iran's atomic bomb program.

    Soltaniyeh said that after Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear power plant at Osirak in 1981, then Iraqi-leader Saddam Hussein bombed Iran's Bushehr plant.

    The Security Council then passed a resolution condemning the attacks and making it illegal for countries to strike nuclear facilities.

    But Soltaniyeh said those U.N. documents were "just pieces of paper" today to the United States and Israel.

    Soltaniyeh said Iran was hiding nothing from the world and that all of its nuclear fuel facilities were known to the U.N. nuclear watchdog. But he hinted that threats of possible military action against Tehran could change that.

    "Any threat or potential threat will create a very complicated situation," he said, adding that Iran would never give up its enrichment program.

    A retired U.S. Air Force colonel and well-known war gaming expert told the conference the United States was under increasing pressure to use military force to destroy Iran's atomic sites and would make a decision on this option soon.

    Iran has completed a 164-machine "cascade" of centrifuges to enrich uranium at its Natanz plant and is expected to begin testing it soon, diplomats in Vienna say. Operating such a cascade would not enable it to fuel any atomic weapons but would enable Iran to master the difficult art of uranium enrichment.

    "I think we may be looking at a (U.S.) decision in six to nine months," said Sam Gardiner, a military strategy expert who has taught at the U.S. Army's National War College.

    I say before the November elections there will be a serious decision made in the United States," he said.

    Gardiner said that while Washington supported European and Russian efforts to use diplomacy to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear enrichment program, U.S. officials were skeptical about the efficacy of sanctions or other diplomatic weapons.

    Washington also believes the U.N. Security Council will fail to agree on a course of action against Tehran, he said.

    Tehran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at the peaceful generation of electricity. However, it hid its uranium enrichment program, which could produce fuel for nuclear power plants or weapons, from U.N. inspectors for nearly two decades.

    Gardiner said a U.S. operation aimed at destroying Iran's nuclear facilities would take less than a week and would not use any of the forces currently stationed in Iraq.

    "This is an operation that would not take more than five evenings to do," he said, adding that it would probably use Stealth bombers to bomb the facilities.

    But Gardiner said all his war-gaming and analysis had led him to the conclusion that Ambassador Soltaniyeh was right and the military solution would not destroy Iran's nuclear program as the know-how would remain.

    "I don't think U.S. policymakers understand that the military option won't work," he said, adding that continued diplomacy was the only way to resolve the issue.
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    Five U.N. Members Agree on Iran Statement (Just Breaking)
    Yahoo via AP | 3/29/06

    UNITED NATIONS - The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council agreed on a statement Wednesday demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, setting the stage for the first action by the powerful body over fears that Tehran wants a nuclear weapon.

    The 15 members of the council planned to meet later Wednesday to approve the statement. Uranium enrichment is a process that can lead to a nuclear weapon.

    Note:
    The Council is composed of five permanent members — China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States — and ten non-permament members (within year of term's end):

    Argentina (2006) Greece (2006) Qatar (2007) Congo (Republic of the) (2007) Japan (2006) Slovakia (2007) Denmark (2006) Peru (2007) United Republic of Tanzania (2006) and Ghana (2007)


    Also: UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The five U.N. Security Council permanent members reached agreement on Wednesday on how to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions after concessions were made to Russia and China, Britain announced.


    "Our colleagues in the P-5 (permanent five) have reached an agreement on a text," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry told reporters. The five are the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

    The full 15-member council considers the issue later on Wednesday and could formally approve the statement, hours before ministers of the five powers and Germany meet in Berlin.
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    Shadowy nuclear trail
    The Washington Times ^ | 3-29-06 | Tsotne Bakuria

    In 1995, former Iranian president Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani made a little-noticed trip to the neighboring country of Georgia. He spent several hours in Tbilisi, the capital, and then instead of returning to Iran, he made a secret side trip to the breakaway region of Adjara to visit President Aslan Abashidze. The purpose of the detour was not to visit the balmy, palm-treed tourist sea port resort of Batumi on the Black Sea. His purpose was more sinister. The Iranian president was looking for black market sources of chemicals to enrich uranium for building a nuclear bomb. He found a willing partner in the small-time warlord, who promised to help for an undisclosed sum of money. In fact, Mr. Abashidze -- who was later ousted from power in 2004 -- offered his important contacts in Russia, as well as private Adjaran planes to secretly fly the needed components to Iran.

    The deal went through.
    In 1998 and 2001, Mr. Abashidze in fact sent two airplanes to Tehran to establish business contacts with Iranians. Then he arranged for four Russian scientists to travel to Tehran. The first stop was Batumi. The Russians, armed with fake passports, their wrists handcuffed to expensive leather attache cases filled with materials to aid Iran's uranium enrichment program, were flown to Iran on Mr. Abashidze's orders to help the government build the bomb.
    Earlier, in June 1997, two Pakistanis -- introduced to Mr. Abashidze as Nobel prize-winning physicians -- stayed in Batumi for three months under tight security. Their bodyguards were seen on the city streets. The motorcades blared through street lights. They turned out to be employees of A.Q. Khan, father of the Pakistani nuclear program and regarded as a national hero.
    Mr. Abashidze gave the Pakistanis his private plane and they flew to Isfahan, in Iran. The plane returned to Batumi loaded down with cardboard boxes full of cash which Mr. Abashidze's bodyguards put in their Hummers and delivered to Mr. Abashidze's residential palace.
    When Mikhail Saakashvili took power in Georgia after the Rose Revolution, relations between Georgia and Adjara deteriorated quickly.
    Mr. Abashidze was considered a ruthless dictator, and in the words of one prominent American statesman, "a commie stooge."
    On a pleasant spring night in May, 2004, groups of protesters stormed the president's residence in Batumi, demanding Mr. Abashidze's resignation. There were many factors that led to his ouster, among them the suspicion that he had raided the Adjara budget and secreted huge amounts of cash -- including personal letters from Iranian officials regarding the uranium deal -- out of the country. When his secretary protested in those last desperate hours, saying there was no time to gather all his correspondence, Mr. Abashidze replied that he only needed the letters written in Farsi. She complied, according to witnesses, and it took more than an hour to gather all the private paperwork.
    A plane was sent from Moscow to pick him up. He took his bodyguards, and his son and the incriminating evidence of the Iranian deal. He is now living in Moscow in luxury, (with a fake passport, indeed he is afraid to travel) a billionaire protected by the even more corrupt Moscow Mayor Yuri Lushkov, a close ally, who despises America. Nevertheless, Mr. Abashidze just purchased a home in Vienna for $5 million, where his son -- a well known drug dealer and playboy -- resides.
    It's doubtful anyone in the Kremlin -- especially President Vladimir Putin -- knew what Mr. Abashidze was up to. In fact, I knew Mr. Abashidze from 2001 to 2003. There was gossip about his role in securing enriched uranium for Iran, but nothing could be proven at the time. We knew Mr. Abashidze hated Mr. Putin because of his moderate political positions, and that he was a loyal friend to Iran. When Adjaran "musicians" (in reality various scientists and chemists) traveled to Iran to promote Adjarian "culture" (whatever that is), Iranian President Mohammed Khatami attended the performances, which were oddly devoid of any musical instruments. The Iranian president publicly thanked Mr. Abashidze -- and his small fiefdom -- for his help in developing "Iranian science." Which meant only one thing: the bomb.

    America and European allies are now forced to accept the fact that Iran got help from outside countries, especially Russia. This fact can only make President Putin sick to his stomach. How can he possibly handle such an international crisis? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush are vowing to undermine Iran's determination, with Mr. Putin's help.
    Terrorists come in many forms. So do dictators. Greedy for cash and seemingly invulnerable, Mr. Abashidze saw an opportunity and seized it, with no regard for the consequences.
    The mystery of how Iran got the chemicals to enrich the uranium lies with Mr. Abashidze, a little-known figure now protected by his powerful friends in Moscow. He is under investigation for murder and money laundering, but so far international authorities have little hard evidence of his involvement with Iran's nuclear program. He is merely a footnote in the history of terrorism, but if Iran succeeds in building a nuclear bomb, Mr. Abashidze -- in that dark night of the soul -- can claim success if and when Iran decides to detonate a deadly mushroom cloud against its enemies. Innocent people will die. And Mr. Abashidze will sleep on his silk sheets.
    And when Mr. Lushkov is finally out of power, Mr. Abashidze (known as "Babu," or grandfather, to his followers) can always flee Moscow and find a safe haven in Iran as the most honorable citizen of the country.

    Tsotne Bakuria is a former member of the Georgian Parliament and a visiting scholar at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
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    Default Re: Iran the Next Battlefield - Thread Renamed

    I'm sticking with my prediction of no military action until after the fall election festivities. If the Dems take a majority in either house, there will be no military action taken, period.

    What should be done? I think there is too much I don't know about the situation, but my preference would be to decapitate the Iranian government including the Mullah-cracy, from within or without. That's my idea until someone explains why it won't work, or is a bad idea. I'm listening...

    EM
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    Well, that's a good prediction as well. I just heard from another country (Sean) who says maybe 15 months out.

    I guess we ought to start a pool or something.

    Fact is, I think it will happen. I am certain that Israelis will make the first preemptive strike when they are ready with or without US support.

    However, I'm concerned about the nuke stuff I read on the Saudis. Dunno how accurate that particular article was, but it sounds feasible.

    If the Saudi's have nukes, every Arab country out there as ACCESS to them now. Since Pakistan has them, they don't like us, you can bet your ass they will be giving (selling) them to anyone that doesn't like us anyway.

    So... scenario.

    Israelis get intelligence saying that a nuclear weapon is being developed.

    Israelis hit Iran, hard. Several sites, just like they hit Saddam so many years back.

    Iran raises holy hell and attacks anyone that gets in their way of getting to Israel.

    The US sends forces in the middle. Rockets, missiles and whatever anyone might have handy get thrown around.

    We get in a fight whether we like it or not
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    By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes ago


    UNITED NATIONS - The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council agreed on a statement Wednesday demanding that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, setting the stage for the first action by the powerful body over fears that Tehran wants a nuclear weapon.

    The 15 members of the council planned to meet later Wednesday to approve the statement, the text of which was not immediately disclosed. Uranium enrichment is a process that can lead to a nuclear weapon.
    Diplomats said the statement, which is not legally binding will [sorry, transmission break, EM]

    International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei to report back in 30 days on Iran's compliance with the demands.
    "We are very close today to taking the first major step in the Security Council to deal with Iran's nearly 20-year-old clandestine nuclear weapons program," U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said. "It sends an unmistakable message to Iran that its efforts to deny the obvious fact of what it's doing are not going to be sufficient."
    The council has struggled for three weeks to come up with a written rebuke that would urge Iran to comply with several demands from the board of the IAEA to clear up suspicions about its intentions. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
    The West believes council action will help isolate Iran and put new pressure on it to clear up suspicions about its intentions. They have proposed an incremental approach, refusing to rule out sanctions.
    U.S. officials have said the threat of military action must also remain on the table.
    Russia and China, both allies of Iran, oppose sanctions. They want any council statement to make explicit that the IAEA, not the Security Council, must take the lead in confronting Iran.
    Diplomats would not say exactly what will happen if Iran does not comply within 30 days. Jones-Parry told reporters only that "the council will continue its discussion of this issue and will assume its responsibilities" if that happens.
    Britain, France and the United States had wanted the council statement out of the way before their foreign ministers, as well as Germany's, meet in Berlin on Thursday to discuss strategy toward Iran.
    In Moscow on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated his stance that Moscow would not support the use of force to solve the Iranian nuclear problem.
    "As many of our European and Chinese colleagues have stated more than once, any ideas involving the use of force or pressure in resolving the issue are counterproductive and cannot be supported," Lavrov said.
    Iran remains defiant. The government released a statement through its embassy in Moscow on Tuesday warning that Security Council intervention would "escalate tensions, entailing negative consequences that would be of benefit to no party.

    [end]

    Wow, the UN is thinking about maybe taking the action of perhaps telling Iran "no, no, no" (in a non-binding fashion, of course) when it comes to making nukes. I'm thrilled, problem solved! (sarc).

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    http://www.iranfocus.com/modules/new...p?storyid=6490

    I'll bet you're equally surprised by the official response.

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    Iranian pact with Venezuela stokes fears of uranium sales
    By Kelly Hearn

    THE WASHINGTON TIMES
    March 13, 2006

    BUENOS AIRES -- A recent deal between Iran and Venezuela provides for the exploitation of Venezuela's strategic minerals, prompting opposition figures to warn that President Hugo Chavez's government could be planning to provide Tehran with uranium for its nuclear program. The deal was part of a package of agreements, most of which were announced during a visit last month to Caracas and Cuba by Iranian parliament Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel. The two countries also established a joint $200 million development fund and signed bilateral deals to build homes and factories, and exploit petroleum.

    Public details are vague, but Venezuelan opposition figures and press reports have said the deal on minerals could involve the production and transfer to Iran have said the deal on minerals could involve the production and transfer to Iran of Venezuelan uranium taken from known deposits located in the dense jungle states of Amazonas and Bolivar.

    Mr. Chavez last week ridiculed such speculation as being part of an "imperialist plan" propagated by international news media.

    "Now they say I am sending uranium to make atomic bombs from here, from the Venezuelan Amazon to send directly to the Persian Gulf," Mr. Chavez said during a meeting at a military club on Tuesday. "This shows they have no limit in their capacity to invent lies."

    The speculation comes at a time of rising tension between the world community and Iran, which yesterday declared it had ruled out a proposed compromise under which it would process uranium for a peaceful nuclear program in Russia.

    The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- are to meet this week to discuss a draft statement aimed at increasing the pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear plans.

    Retired Venezuelan Vice Adm. Jose Rafael Huizi-Clavier said the mining arrangements negotiated last month with Iran are broad and unspecific and could easily include uranium.

    Other critics of Mr. Chavez point out that Venezuela recently voted against reporting Tehran to the U.N. Security Council for its uranium-enrichment program and that Mr. Chavez in recent months has attempted to purchase his own civilian-use nuclear technology from Argentina. Adm. Huizi-Clavier, who heads the Venezuela-based Institutional Military Front, a group of ex-military officials opposed to Mr. Chavez, said his group is "alarmed by a confluence of facts." He cited construction work at a small military base and the widening of a military airstrip near the Brazilian border, where uranium deposits are said to exist.

    He also noted that Mr. Chavez expelled U.S. missionaries from areas known to have uranium in February. At the time, Mr. Chavez accused New Tribes Mission, a Florida-based group, of working for the CIA and foreign mining interests.

    A Florida-based spokesman for the group said none of the missionaries knew anything about uranium-mining activities.

    Venezuelan Minister of Science and Technology Yadira Cordova said on Thursday that the airfield belonged to the New Tribes Mission. She also denied uranium was being mined or processed in the area, saying such technologically demanding processes "would be detected easily." In Washington, a State Department official said, "We are aware of reports of possible Iranian exploitation of Venezuelan uranium, but we see no commercial uranium activities in Venezuela."

    Adm. Huizi-Clavier said Mr. Chavez was playing a "dangerous game" by backing Iran at the United Nations in defiance of overwhelming world opinion.

    Former Venezuelan Defense Minister Raul Salazar said the country's support of Iran's nuclear program was pushing relations with Washington past "the point of no return."

    Mr. Chavez's support for Iran's nuclear plan has thus far been purely political, he said, but "that is not to say [uranium transfers to Tehran] couldn't happen in the future."


    ---------------------------------------------------------------
    Copyright Washington Post, 2006
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    IRAN: LARGE-SCALE MILITARY DRILLS TO START IN THE GULF
    AKI ^ | March 30, 2006

    http://www.adnki.com/index_2Level_En...81921971&par=0

    IRAN: LARGE-SCALE MILITARY DRILLS TO START IN THE GULF

    Tehran, 30 March (AKI) - Iran has announced it will start on Friday a week-long military drill in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The manoeuvre is aimed at preparing the armed forces against threats, Iran's IRNA news agency quoted a senior commander as saying. The military exercises will last until 6 April and will involve 17,000 servicemen, 1,500 vessels and jet fighter planes.

    The commander of the navy of Revolutionary Guards Corps, Rear Admiral Mostafa Safari, did not explain what type of threat Iran faced. However, the manoeuvre comes just two days after the UN Security Council called on Iran to suspend all its uranium enrichment activities amid fears in the West that Tehran is seeking to build atomic weapons.

    Safari told IRNA that the operation will help the army gain "the necessary and needed readiness to decisively reply to any kind of threat."

    Iran has medium-range Shahab-3 missiles with the capability of 2,000 kilometres, capable of hitting Israel and US bases across the Middle East.

    "The exercise will cover an area stretching from the northern tip of the Gulf all the way to the port city of Chah-Bahar in the Sea of Oman extending 40 kilometres into the sea," he said.

    The drill's spokesman Rear Admiral Mohammed Ebrahim said that the exercises will mainly focus on the strait of Hormouz.

    "Some 80 percent of the Gulf's oil is shipped out of this strait over which Iran has dominant and accurate control," he said. "If the enemy wants to make the area insecure, he should be rest assured that he will also suffer from the insecurity, since we know the location of their vessels."
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    Iran Gets 30 Days to Clear Nuke Suspicions
    AP via Yahoo! ^ | Thursday, March 30, 2006 | EDITH M. LEDERER

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060330/...ran_nuclear_27

    UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council gave Iran 30 days to clear up suspicions that it is seeking nuclear weapons, and key members turned their focus on what to do if Iran refuses to suspend uranium enrichment and allow more intrusive inspections.

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Berlin on Thursday for discussions between the five permanent council members — the United States, Russia, China Britain and France — plus Germany, on how much and what kind of pressure to exert on Iran if it refuses to comply.

    After three weeks of intense negotiations, the 15-member Security Council approved a statement Wednesday asking the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to report back in 30 days on Iran's compliance with demands to stop enriching uranium.

    The statement, made available to The Associated Press, takes into account Russian and Chinese reservations about too much toughness, while meeting U.S., French and British calls for keeping the pressure on Tehran.

    It "notes with serious concern Iran's decision to resume enrichment-related activities ... and to suspend cooperation with the IAEA under the additional protocol" — an agreement allowing agency inspectors wide access on short notice to Iran's nuclear program.

    The statement also calls on Iran to return to "full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related ... activities."

    Rice called the statement an "important diplomatic step" that showed the international community's concern about Iran. Before meeting with her counterparts, she was consulting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    "We are very close today to taking the first major step in the Security Council to deal with Iran's nearly 20-year-old clandestine nuclear weapons program," John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in New York. "It sends an unmistakable message to Iran that its efforts to deny the obvious fact of what it's doing are not going to be sufficient."

    Iran remained defiant, maintaining its right to nuclear power but insisting that it had no intention of seeking weapons of mass destruction.

    On Thursday, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki condemned "unjustified propaganda" about its peaceful nuclear program. "Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and has never diverted towards prohibited activities," Mottaki told the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

    But, he added, Iran is willing to continue talks with the IAEA over its nuclear program.

    "We are willing to continue with negotiations and also continue with our sincere and constructive cooperation with the agency," Mottaki told reporters after the conference session. "Our cooperation with the agency will continue."

    Security Council members described the statement, while not legally binding, as a first step to pressure Iran to make clear its program is for peaceful purposes. It also calls on Iran to ratify the IAEA's additional protocol, which allows unannounced inspections.

    The Security Council could eventually impose economic sanctions, though Russia and China say they oppose such tough measures.

    The Europeans initially proposed a much stronger statement but accepted a milder one to secure the support of Russia and China. Western countries agreed to drop language that proliferation "constitutes a threat to international peace and security." Also gone is a mention that the council is specifically charged under the U.N. charter with addressing such threats.

    Russia and China had opposed that language because they wanted nothing in the statement that could automatically trigger council action after 30 days.

    "For the time being we have suspicions," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Andrey Denisov said. "So from that point of view, it is like a ladder. If you want to climb up, you must step on the first step, and then the second, and not try to leap."

    The West has refused to rule out sanctions, and U.S. officials have said the threat of military action must also remain on the table.

    Negotiations between Iran and France, Germany and Britain collapsed in August after Tehran rejected a package of incentives offered in return for a permanent end to uranium enrichment. Its moves to develop full-blown enrichment capabilities led the IAEA's board to ask for Security Council involvement.

    Beyond giving formal blessings for the council statement — and using it to reflect a show of unity — Rice and the ministers from France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany were not likely to accomplish much at Thursday's meeting formally set to last only 90 minutes.

    While the officials were expected to touch on ways to engage Iran diplomatically, major differences persist on that approach.

    In a confidential letter earlier this month, Britain argued for including the other permanent Security Council members in talks with Iran. In exchange, they hoped to secure Russian and Chinese support for increasing pressure on Iran through binding council resolutions that could be enforced militarily.

    A senior European official said on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media that Britain's "proposal is not off the table." But a U.S. official, who also requested anonymity for the same reason, said Washington opposed including more countries in the negotiations.

    "From the beginning, our position has been that we don't think it's helpful to have other countries joining the EU-3 in the dialogue because it has the potential of diluting the Western position on Iran," he said.

    The U.S. official did not, however, rule out direct discussions between the United States and Iran, suggesting they could be a spinoff of the U.S. administration's decision earlier this month to talk to Iran about Iraq after a nearly three-decade break in diplomatic ties.

    The U.S. administration has publicly emphasized those talks would not touch on the nuclear issue. But the official said that "if some understanding emerges from those discussions, then the one side or the other might say, 'Let's have some follow-up.'"
    Libertatem Prius!


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    Default Re: Iran the Next Battlefield - Thread Renamed

    U.N. Demands Iran Suspend Nuke Enrichment ~~ Iran remained defiant,
    Las Vegas Sun ^ | March 29, 2006 at 22:16:37 PST | NICK WADHAMS ASSOCIATED PRESS

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) -

    The U.N. Security Council demanded Wednesday that Iran suspend uranium enrichment, the first time the powerful body has directly urged Tehran to clear up suspicions that it is seeking nuclear weapons.

    Iran remained defiant, maintaining its right to nuclear power but insisting that it was committed to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and had no intention of seeking weapons of mass destruction.

    "Pressure and threats do not work with Iran. Iran is a country that is allergic to pressure and to threats and intimidation," Iranian Ambassador Javad Zarif said. He later added that "Iran insists on its right to have access to nuclear technology for explicitly peaceful purposes. We will not abandon that claim to our legitimate right."

    The 15-nation council unanimously approved a statement that will ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to report back in 30 days on Iran's compliance with demands to stop enriching uranium.

    Diplomats portrayed the statement, which is not legally binding, as a first, modest step toward compelling Iran to make clear that its program is for peaceful purposes. The Security Council could eventually impose economic sanctions, though Russia and China say they oppose such tough measures.

    "The council is expressing its clear concern and is saying to Iran that it should comply with the wishes of the governing board," France's U.N Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said.

    The document was adopted by consensus and without a vote after a flurry of negotiations among the five veto-wielding council members. In the end, Britain, France and the United States made several concessions to China and Russia, Iran's allies, who wanted as mild a statement as possible.

    Still, the Western countries said the statement expresses the international community's shared conviction that Iran must comply with the governing board of the IAEA and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

    Enrichment is a process that can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a nuclear warhead.

    Members of the council wanted to reach a deal before Thursday, when foreign ministers from the five veto-wielding council members and Germany meet in Berlin to discuss strategy on Iran.

    Diplomats would not say exactly what will happen if Iran does not comply with the statement within 30 days, but suggested that would be discussed by the foreign ministers in Berlin.

    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the statement an "important diplomatic step" that showed the international community's concern about Iran.

    "Iran is more isolated now than ever," she said in a statement. "The Security Council's Presidential Statement sends an unmistakable message to Iran that its efforts to conceal its nuclear program and evade its international obligations are unacceptable."

    The council has struggled for three weeks to come up with a written rebuke that would urge Iran to comply with several demands from the board of the IAEA to clear up suspicions about its intentions. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

    The West believes council action will help isolate Iran and put new pressure on it to clear up suspicions about its intentions. They have proposed an incremental approach, refusing to rule out sanctions.

    U.S. officials have said the threat of military action must also remain on the table.

    Russia and China, both allies of Iran, oppose sanctions. They wanted any council statement to make explicit that the IAEA, not the Security Council, must take the lead in confronting Iran.

    The draft circulated to the council calls upon Iran to "resolve outstanding questions, and underlines ... the particular importance of re-establishing full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities."

    Still, it removed language that China and Russia opposed.

    The text removes language saying that proliferation is a threat to international peace and security. Also gone is a mention that the council is specifically charged under the U.N. charter with addressing such threats.

    Russia and China had opposed that language from the start because they wanted nothing in the statement that could automatically trigger council action after 30 days.

    "For the time being we have suspicions," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Andrey Denisov said. "So from that point of view, it is like a ladder. If you want to climb up, you must step on the first step, and then the second, and not try to leap."

    --
    Libertatem Prius!


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