30 March 2005, Volume 8, Number 13
IRAN BEGINS YEAR OF 'SOLIDARITY' AND 'PARTICIPATION.' Last year was the Year of Accountability, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in his 20 March Norouz address, according to state television. The slogan for the coming year (21 March 2005-20 March 2006) will be, he said, "national solidarity and public participation."
Khamenei said this will be an important year because of the presidential election scheduled for June and because it is the first year of the 20-year plan. Beginning this year, the Five-Year Plans will be based on this macro-plan, as will the annual budget. Khamenei said officials from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government should use the 20-year plan for guidance. "The important thing for both the people and officials is cooperation, national unity, and solidarity," Khamenei said.
The next day, Khamenei told thousands of people in the courtyard of the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad, "The coming year is named the Year of National Solidarity and Public Participation, because the country's strategic needs demand public participation in various arenas," state television reported. He described participation in the June presidential election as a "national obligation." Khamenei said, "The country needs a capable and strong manager." He said this manager would eliminate obstacles and show the people what has been done to improve their quality of life over the last 20 years.
Khamenei added: "May God almighty help and direct you, the Iranian nation, to vote for a competent man who is courageous, sincere, sympathetic with the people, enthusiastic, a believer in the aspirations and values of the revolution, a believer in the people's power, and a believer in the people's right." (Bill Samii)
URBAN HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS GET POLITICAL. Norouz celebrants in Kurdistan Province were arrested on 20 March after the activities turned political, Baztab website reported. About 1,000 people had gathered in the city of Mahabad when some began to display Kurdish flags and pictures of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, while also chanting separatist slogans. Security forces arrested the leaders and dispersed the rest of the crowd. Disturbances in Baneh, Qorveh, and Sanandaj also got out of hand, although Baztab did not report any political activities in these cases. The situation calmed down after some of the rowdier celebrants were arrested.
The pre-Islamic celebration called Chaharshanbeh Suri takes place on the Wednesday before Norouz, and international news agencies reported that the celebrations turned violent in several Iranian cities. During this event, people jump over or through bonfires to purify themselves symbolically, but this year, "The Guardian" reported on 21 March, there were "political undercurrents." A bystander at festivities in Tehran named Reza said, before warning about lurking security forces, "This is a way for people to use their national traditions to show their opposition to the regime."
"The Guardian" reported that police in Tehran attacked crowds using batons and tear gas, and the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on 16 March that police did this in more than four locations. The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported that some 50 people were arrested in Tehran. In Isfahan, Reuters reported on 16 March, vigilantes beat up boys and young men who were playing with firecrackers. More than 100 people were detained by vigilantes in Tabriz, Iran Press Service reported on 15 March. (Bill Samii)
RASHT IS PREPARED FOR THE HOLIDAYS. The Norouz holiday is a time when Iranian families travel, but the country's notorious traffic discourages some people. Traffic is especially bad in the northern provinces during the holiday, as many tourists from other parts of the country come to visit the beaches and resorts along the Caspian Sea. In the city of Rasht, capital of the northern province of Gilan, traffic will not be a problem this year because a one-way street system is being implemented for five days during the busiest period, "Gilan-i Imruz" reported on 7 March.
An unnamed provincial governorate security official described other aspects of the traffic plan, which is being implemented early this year -- from 5-16 March -- because the influx of tourists increases the population by at least 30 percent. During this period all traffic personnel will have urban duties in the mornings and afternoons. From 16 March-3 April, when traffic is at its heaviest, 50 percent of security personnel will be on duty at all times. From 3-7 April motorized and pedestrian patrols will be ready to help motorists, he said. Cameras for traffic control have been authorized, but they are not operational yet. (Bill Samii)
SOCCER GAME LEADS TO RIOTS IN IRANIAN CITIES. Five people in Tehran were trampled to death and about 40 others were injured after a World Cup qualifying match between Iran and Japan at the Azadi Stadium on 25 March, Radio Farda reported. Almost 100 buses were damaged. The casualties reportedly are the result of celebrating fans getting out of hand.
One of the spectators, Hamid Reza Alaqehband, told Radio Farda that security personnel left the exits 10 minutes after the game began, whereas they should have controlled access and egress the entire time. Alaqehband added that not all the exits were open when the game ended. He noted that lots of security personnel were on the scene before the game began, but they were nowhere to be seen after it ended.
The Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran reported on 25 March that similar events occurred in Isfahan, Mahabad, Mashhad, and the Tehran suburb of Rey. SMCCDI described these events as clashes between demonstrators, security forces, and plain-clothes vigilantes. The next day, SMCCDI reported at least six people were killed during unrest in Ardabil, Babol, Hamedan, Isfahan, Kermanshah, Khoramabad, Mahabad, Mashhad, Rasht, Sari, Shiraz, Tehran, and Urumiyeh. (Bill Samii)
CONSERVATIVE FRONT-RUNNER IS EXPERIENCED AND CONNECTED... Several news sources, most recently the 20 March issue of the "Financial Times," have reported that Ali Larijani has been selected as the conservative Coordination Council of the Islamic Revolution Forces candidate for the 17 June presidential election. But the situation is not that simple. Hamid Reza Taraqi of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party said on 18 March, "At the present time, Larijani has not been officially declared the chosen candidate and this choice is the result of the discussions, examinations, and assessments within this faction," the Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Taraqi said the conservatives will announce their final choice after the new year (21 March 2005).
With just three months before the election, the conservatives are cutting it close. Politically experienced and professionally and personally connected, Larijani seems like a highly qualified candidate. The delay in making a final selection could reflect the divisions within the conservative camp. It is also possible that the conservatives are trying to gauge public opinion more fully before announcing their choice. But at the end of the day, one person -- former president and current Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani -- could undo everybody's calculations if he too decides to run for the presidency.
...THE FRONT-RUNNER'S VIEWS... Ali Ardeshir-Larijani served as a political functionary in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, served as minister of Islamic culture and guidance, and served as director of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. He is a member of the Expediency Council and currently serves as the Supreme Leader's representative to the Supreme National Security Council. During this time he has shown himself to be quite conservative on cultural and social issues. His more recent engagement with national security issues also reveals a conservative tendency.
Aside from professional connections, Larijani is well connected personally. He is the son of a prominent cleric, Ayatollah Mirza Hashem Amoli. One of his brothers, Mohammad Javad Ardeshir-Larijani, is an adviser to the judiciary chief, and another brother, Sadeq Ardeshir-Larijani, is a clerical member of the Guardians Council.
Larijani is a prominent member of the "new generation of conservatives," Professor Farhad Khosrokhavar of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris notes in the Winter 2004 issue of MERIP (http://www.merip.org/mer/mer233/mer233.html). This group, which is in its forties and fifties, features many university graduates with engineering degrees and doctorates. In contrast with the older generation of conservatives, they do not reject "democracy" outright, and they back individuals' right to privacy. They have distanced themselves from revolutionary calls for "self-sacrifice" and "martyrdom," and they employ terminology similar to that of the reformists. These individuals advocate economic development.
Larijani's recent statements reinforce Prof. Khosrokhavar's observation. Larijani said the country must use academics' expertise if it is to progress, "Hemayat" reported on 17 February. He added, "Fundamentalism and new thinking forces should join hands with realism and solve the country's problems with a precise pragmatic outlook." Larijani also tried to appeal to the business community by criticizing excessive state involvement in the economy and calling for deregulation. He described the problem: "Any time the academics desire to create employment, they are faced with a mass of governmental regulations and this is a problem that must be eliminated." He added, "The bureaucratic system needs fresh air, so that privileged, young, and thinking forces of the wise and committed sort should come forward and change the atmosphere."
In earlier statements it seemed that Larijani was trying to earn the support of the conservative Islamic Iran Developers Council (Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami), which dominated the February 2004 parliamentary polls. He said his ideology is similar to that of the Developers, "Kayhan" reported on 5 February. "The Developers is a new fundamental movement and they entered the scene when left and right lost their position," he said. "And now we see that members from different movements are in this group." Larijani concluded, "I respect and follow any decision that the fundamentalists or the Developers make."
During a trip to Amol, Larijani said, "The Developers have established realistic and creative behaviors, based on Islamic rules, over the years and hope to create constructive reforms for the country in the future in this rational manner," "Hemayat" reported on 31 January.
...AN UNCOORDINATED COUNCIL. Mariam Behruzi is a member of the conservative women's organization called the Zeynab Society, and she also is a member of the Coordination Council. She said that opinion polls show that Larijani is ahead of the other conservative candidates so far, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 15 March. Larijani won approval at the 13 March Coordination Council meeting, she said, adding that the council would wait before making its final announcement. Behruzi said key members of the Islamic Revolution Devotees' Society (Jamiyat-i Isargaran-i Inqilab-i Islami) were not at the 13 March meeting.
The absence of the Devotees, an organization of younger conservative activists, is emblematic of wider and continuing differences within the Coordination Council. These differences could be what is delaying the final announcement of a candidate. [Information in this section is from "Sharq," 22 February 2005; "Aftab-i Yazd," 3 March 2005; "Farhang-i Ashti," 5 March 2005; and "Eqbal," 7 March 2005.]
The first Coordination Council was chaired by Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Nateq-Nuri and its members were Habibullah Asgar-Oladi-Musalman, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, Hussein Fadai, and Seyyed Reza Taqavi. Nateq-Nuri and Asgar-Oladi are old-school conservatives, Bahonar is part of the new generation of conservatives, and Fadai represents yet another conservative tendency.
This group could not settle on a candidate so it expanded its membership. The expanded membership is believed to have included two of the following individuals: Tehran City Council chairman Mehdi Chamran, Speaker of Parliament Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, "Resalat" manager Morteza Nabavi, Haqqani seminary graduate Mustafa Pur-Mohammadi, former Martyrs Foundation chairman Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, or "Kayhan" newspaper manager Hussein Shariatmadari.
The expanded council reportedly chose Ali Larijani as its candidate. Devotees' secretary-general Hussein Fadai abstained, however, so again there was no final decision on a candidate.
At this point, Fadai had had enough. He was frustrated by the waste of time over candidates. At the same time, two or three of the conservative candidates -- Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad, Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai, and Tehran parliamentary representative Ahmad Tavakoli -- expressed dissatisfaction with the selection process. Fadai then created what has come to be known as Coordination Council II.
Ahmadi-Nejad, Rezai, and Tavakoli signed a letter in which they agreed to keep campaigning until the month of Ordibehesht (April-May), and they would step aside for the most popular candidate. Another candidate, Supreme Leader's adviser Ali-Akbar Velayati, reportedly concurred with this.
Rezai said the conservatives will not announce their candidate until registration takes place (in early May). But he was willing to do some campaigning, saying that he will have people younger than 30 in his cabinet and 30 percent of managerial positions will go to young people. He added that his government will provide the resources needed to increase jobs for young people, and he also mentioned sports and leisure activities for young people. The voting age in Iran is 15, and about two-thirds of the population is under the age of 35, so his comments will resonate.
Iran's reformists have been fairly quiet lately, and the absence of newspapers during the Norouz holiday contributes to this situation. The big question continues to be whether or not former president Hashemi-Rafsanjani will be a candidate. Recent polls suggest that he would garner the greatest number of votes, but they also suggest that no candidate is sufficiently popular to win outright in the first round of polling. So perhaps the question is not who the reformists or the conservatives will back as their presidential candidate, but is Hashemi-Rafsanjani a conservative or a reformist? Given his political savvy and revolutionary background, as well as his use of technocrats rather than ideologues in his presidential administrations, he is likely to pursue policies similar to those of the "new conservatives."
Hashemi-Rafsanjani may differ with the new conservatives, however, on foreign relations. They have expressed great skepticism about Western motives, particularly on the nuclear issue. Some of them have even called on the Iranian government to renounce its international nuclear commitments. Hashemi-Rafsanjani has expressed a greater willingness to work with the West, and during his presidency he made significant strides in restoring Iran's relations with the rest of the world. (Bill Samii)
CANDIDATES CAMPAIGN DURING HOLIDAYS. Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, chief of the national police, has announced that he will resign so he can be a candidate in the 17 June presidential election, Fars News Agency reported on 24 March, citing Mashhad Association of Like-Minded People member Mohammad Riazi. Riazi added that the 43-year-old Qalibaf has served the revolution since he was 15 years old.
Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai told activists in Andimeshk, Khuzestan Province, on 24 March that he intends to be a candidate in the 17 June presidential election no matter what, IRNA reported. Some of the other candidates have said they would withdraw in favor of Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, should he decide to run. Rezai, however, said Hashemi-Rafsanjani's decision will not affect him. He went on to say the two of them have differing views on economic and management issues. Rezai spoke approvingly of government accountability.
Rezai, a former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, identified himself as a member of the extreme right (osulgarayan), and he criticized the use of armed forces resources in the election campaign. On 17 March, the Baztab website reported that "a cleric who has an important post" in the IRGC has been appointed to a responsible position in the conservative Coordination Council of the Islamic Revolution Forces, although the involvement of military personnel in the campaign is prohibited.
Ali Larijani, who is considered the leading candidate of the conservative Coordination Council of the Islamic Revolution Forces, met with people in Quchan, Khorasan Razavi Province, on 24 March, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported. He identified smuggling and youth unemployment as major problems that require attention. He criticized U.S. support for former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, spoke out against the subsequent U.S. policy of dual containment, and added: "Currently, in conjunction with Europe, America is trying to keep Iran's power, contrary to the wish of the people, at a minimum, because America cannot stand powerful states."
Larijani said the president of Iran has many responsibilities, "but the important thing is that the president must come to an understanding with the people so he can resolve their problems." (Bill Samii)
KHATAMI REVIEWS HIS PERFORMANCE. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said on 20 March that this will be his eighth and final Norouz message as president, state television reported. During this time, he said, he and the people have enjoyed success and endured failures. He noted industrial and agricultural growth and a reduction in the overall unemployment rate to 10.3 percent despite the growth of the workforce and the increased demand for jobs. Youth unemployment has dropped from 21 percent to 18.7 percent, he said, and female unemployment is down to 17.9 percent.
Nevertheless, Khatami said, "Unemployment is a huge problem in our society." Inflation adversely affects those with low incomes, he said, and the system of subsidies is flawed and does not help those who need them the most. Khatami went on to say that the country's emergency management system needs improvement. "Foreign threats aimed at preventing Iran from growing and becoming the most powerful and peaceful democracy in the region, are another problem," Khatami said. He predicted the people could overcome all these problems. (Bill Samii)
IRAN PRODUCES TONS OF EXCESS POULTRY. Ali Azarvash, secretary of the Poultry Breeding Guilds Association of Iran, announced that his industry is second only to automobile manufacturing in importance, "Etemad" reported on 17 March. He said Iran is 100 percent self-sufficient in chicken meat and egg production, and this year 30,000 tons of excess chicken meat was placed in storage. Azarvash said Iranian poultry farmers' costs are 40 to 50 percent higher than they are for foreign poultry farmers. He added that chicken breeders do not receive state subsidies. (Bill Samii)
MILITANTS IN IRAQ TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IRANIAN AMNESTY OFFER. In the last month, the "Christian Science Monitor" reported on 22 March, approximately 230 members of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) have returned to Iran from Iraq. The "Christian Science Monitor" reports that they are disillusioned with the cult-like MKO, which both Iran and the U.S. State Department list as a terrorist organization, and they also face hostility from the Iraqi government. For these reasons, some MKO members have taken advantage of Iran's offer of amnesty.
MKO members still in Iraq are confined to a facility called Camp Ashraf, where they are under "protective custody" by the U.S. military. The "Los Angeles Times" reported on 19 March that MKO personnel it interviewed in Camp Ashraf seemed very happy, although husbands, wives, and children are separated, and contact with other family members is rare. The newspaper says that residents of the camp appeared to have been indoctrinated, that "pictures of [MKO leaders] Mariam and Masood Rajavi are everywhere in the camp, and members refer to Mariam's sayings and ideas in a manner that evokes Maoist China." (Bill Samii)
INTERNATIONAL WATCHDOGS CONDEMN IRANIAN MEDIA PRACTICES. The International Press Institute's World Press Freedom Review for 2004 (http://www.freemdia.at), issued on 22 March, says freedom of expression in Iran is "severely restricted." The report notes that the Internet is increasingly the forum for political expression, and online journalists and bloggers face governmental restrictions. Furthermore, as details in the report show, restrictions on the print media continue, with journalists being arrested on trumped-up charges and tortured while in jail. Others receive threatening phone calls.
The Committee to Protect Journalists' "Attacks on the Press in 2004" report (http://www.cpj.org/attacks04/pages/attacks04index.html), which was released on 14 March, also notes the "growing influence of Internet journalists" and the government's attempts to impose constraints on Internet use, to block websites, and to arrest online journalists. Dissident journalists and activists face repression, as well, CPJ reports. Foreign reporters were harassed, too. (Bill Samii)
IRAN SAYS THERE WILL BE MORE NUCLEAR TALKS WITH EUROPE. Officials from Iran, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom met in Paris on 23 March to review progress in discussions relating to the nuclear issue. Mehr News Agency reported on 23 March that the Iranians said there has been no progress. Iranian official Cyrus Nasseri said the Europeans would like to discuss technical issues before reaching a conclusion and added that more talks will take place in "the coming weeks."
Mohammad Saidi, deputy chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said in Paris on 22 March that Iran will pursue mastery of the complete nuclear fuel cycle -- from mining uranium to building a heavy-water reactor that can produce plutonium, AFP reported. He dismissed as "irrelevant and worthless," according to Mehr News Agency, a European Union offer of security guarantees, the provision of parts for commercial aircraft, or other incentives for giving up this "right."
The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad el-Baradei, said on 21 March that the United States should be engaged in any nuclear negotiations with Iran if the EU is to provide the Islamic Republic with security assurances, AFP reported.
Iran's Supreme National Security Council official Hussein Musavian said in an interview broadcast by state radio on 22 March that if el-Baradei is referring to security assurances in exchange for abandoning the nuclear fuel cycle, he can forget it. Musavian said, "The fuel cycle is the absolute right of any [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] member. If they wish to propose a concession in order to deprive Iran of this absolute and legal right, this basically is not negotiable."
Musavian said in an interview broadcast by state radio on 22 March that the current nuclear talks in Paris are an opportunity to review the achievements of three working groups (an economic and technical committee, a political and security committee, and a nuclear committee). He said the talks will continue for three more months if there is "tangible progress" -- namely, the committees should "demonstrate that the Europeans have made progress toward fulfilling" their promises to Iran. Moreover, Iran should "build trust" that its nuclear fuel cycle will not be diverted for a weapons program. He said Iran accepts the European demand for guarantees, and now they must provide "the mechanism, the scenario, and the framework" they have in mind. (Bill Samii)
EVIDENCE ON IRANIAN NUKE PROGRAM 'COMPELLING.' Central Intelligence Agency Director Porter Goss testified about Iran's nuclear program to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 17 March. He noted that Iran has renounced the possibility of suspending its uranium enrichment program. Enrichment technology can produce nuclear fuel, he said, "but we are more concerned about the dual-use nature of the technology that could also be used to achieve a nuclear weapon." Goss voiced similar concerns about the Iranian nuclear program in testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on 16 February.
"The Wall Street Journal" reported on 18 March that evidence about the Iranian nuclear program is "compelling," but it also is "circumstantial." Thousands of pages of Persian computer files and other data about Iran's missile program serve as what U.S. officials believe is "the best evidence yet that Iran is pursuing an ambitious nuclear weapons program." But this is not definitive proof, and although Washington has shared this information with Berlin, London, and Paris, it does not know how to present it to the public. Washington has rejected an IAEA request to be briefed on the missile information.
The quality and quantity of intelligence on Iran causes difficulties. White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley told CNN's "Late Edition" on 13 March: "Intelligence in Iran is hard to come by. It is a very closed society. They keep their secrets very well."
Because of the difficulties in penetrating the Islamic republic, "Los Angeles has become a key location for gathering intelligence on Tehran." This is because it is home to Iranian expatriates and business people who travel to and from the country, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 19 March.
A nine-member bipartisan presidential panel is expected to report this month that U.S. intelligence on Iran is not good enough for making firm judgments on Iran's weapons programs, "The New York Times" reported on 9 March.
Given the shortcomings of prewar intelligence on Iraq, furthermore, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is examining intelligence on Iran, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 5 February. Committee chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R.-Kansas) said, "We have to be more preemptive on this committee to try to look ahead and determine our capabilities so that you don't get stuck with a situation like you did with Iraq." (Bill Samii)
IRAN REPORTEDLY CREATING NUCLEAR ENGINEERING FACULTY. An anonymous "Western intelligence source" told AFP on 20 March that a secret nuclear engineering faculty will be established in Iran within a year to support the country's military program. The source added, "The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has received approval from the regime for the ministry of education to establish a secret faculty of applied nuclear engineering and materials engineering." The source claimed Iran would try to hide the faculty from the International Atomic Energy Agency's oversight. (Bill Samii)
PAKISTANI PROFESSOR CLAIMS HE PROVIDED IRAN'S CENTRIFUGE. A nuclear scientist and physics teacher at Karachi University, Qadir Hussein, claims he provided Iran with a uranium centrifuge, Karachi's Urdu-language "Jasarat" daily reported on 20 March. Hussein claimed he first met with the Iranian consul-general on 19 January 1985. Hussein claimed that on 30 January 1987, he met with two Iranian nuclear experts, one of whom had an American doctoral degree, and he later received $400,000 for providing the formula for making weapons-grade uranium.
To date, a network connected with the father of the Pakistani bomb, Abdul Qadir Khan, has been credited with supplying much of the initial know-how for the Iranian nuclear program. On 10 March, Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said: "Yes, we provided the centrifuge system to Iran. Yes, we gave this technology to Iran -- Dr. [Abdul] Qadir [Khan] did. But we are not going to hand over Dr. Qadir to any one. We are not giving him up," RFE/RL reported.
Hussein claimed that A.Q. Khan has been wrongly accused. Hussein also said that he conveyed all this information to the White House. None of this information has been independently confirmed. (Bill Samii)
IRAN'S MISSILE INVENTORY A 'POTENTIAL THREAT.' Defense Intelligence Agency Director Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby testified about the Iranian missile threat on 17 March to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said cruise missiles could pose an "increased threat" to deployed U.S. and allied forces, and he speculated that Iran is "expected to develop or import" cruise missiles. "We judge Iran will have the technical capability to develop an ICBM by 2015," Jacoby said. The Shihab-3 medium-range ballistic missile has a 1300-kilometer range, and Tehran claims it is developing a 2000-kilometer version. Jacoby described Iran as one of the "Nations of Interest," and he added, "Its expanding ballistic missile inventory presents a potential threat to states in the region."
On the same day that Jacoby was giving testimony about the Iranian missile threat, FinancialTimes.com quoted Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Piskun as saying his country sold 12 KH-55 (aka AS-15) cruise missiles to Iran in 2001. The missile has a 3,000-km range.
The Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office in a statement on 18 March dismissed as untrue the "Financial Times" report, Interfax reported. According to the statement, the missiles in question were smuggled out of Ukraine without official approval. The Security Service of Ukraine, the statement adds, has launched a criminal case against V. Yevdokimov, director of the Ukraviyazamovlennya company, who is suspected of the involvement in the smuggling.
Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Petro Poroshenko said in Kyiv on 22 March that the alleged export to Iran and China of cruise missiles made in his country did not have governmental approval, Interfax-Ukraine reported. Poroshenko said, "It is not a crime that was committed by Ukraine as a state. It has not been proved that the sale was approved by respective state agencies." Poroshenko added, "I think that all state agencies, all representative of Ukraine, are demonstrating their openness, their interest in an objective, impartial, and open investigation into any case of arms supplies from Ukraine. (Bill Samii, Jan Maksymiuk)
AMMAN-TEHRAN RELATIONS IMPERILED. Jordan's Prince Faisal Bin Al Hussein cabled Norouz greetings to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 20 March, the official Jordanian Petra-JNA news agency reported. Critical statements from Amman in the following days suggest that there are problems in Jordan-Iran relations -- Jordan's King Abdullah hinted at this in December, when he criticized Iranian activities in Iraq and warned about the regional implications of this, and later reports described Amman's unhappiness with alleged Iranian support for Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and other Jordanian terrorists (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 14 December 2004 and 10 January 2005).
King Abdullah warned in a 22 March meeting in Washington with representatives of American Jewish groups that the greatest threats to regional peace are Iran, Syria, and Hizballah, "Haaretz" reported on 23 March. He also said Syria and Hizballah are encouraging Palestinian terror attacks in Israel in an effort to undermine the Middle East peace process. According to "Haaretz," among the groups represented at the meeting were B'nai Brith and the American Jewish Congress.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani al-Mulqi told Dubai's Al-Arabiyah television on 21 March that Iran has something to do with the recent rupture in Baghdad-Amman relations. He said, "Actually, I sense Iran's involvement." He added that his country wants good relations with Iran, but "no matter what Iran does, it will not be able to harm Jordan."
Iraq and Jordan recalled their envoys on 20 March after criticism that Jordan should try harder to prevent the infiltration of suicide bombers.
Iraqi Ambassador to Tehran Salah Nur Samarmand on 22 March said that Iran is in no way responsible for the recent rupture in Amman-Baghdad relations, Iranian state radio reported. "Such statements are not true," Samarmand said. "Iran has nothing to do with this crime and would like to expand its ties with Iraq." Samarmand criticized Jordanian clerics for their failure to condemn the suicide bombing in al-Hillah, he accused Jordan of backing Ba'athist remnants, and he claimed that Jordan backs Saddam Hussein's daughters "who dispatch terrorists and criminals to Iraq and support them financially."
Despite the critical exchange between Tehran and Amman, their ambassadors do not appear to have been recalled. (Bill Samii)
RADIO FARDA ON IRAN AND TERRORISM: REFORMERS INSIST HARD-LINERS' HISTORY OF POLITICAL ASSASSINATIONS CONTINUES (PART 3). Revolutions consume their children. That maxim was arguably as true of the Islamic Revolution at its outset as it was of the French Revolution. But as the Islamic Republic has matured over the past 26 years, the fierce political jockeying and violence of its early period has largely been forgotten. Instead, Iran appears today to provide some room for political differences within the limits of its theocratic system. Those differences are expressed in parliamentary struggles that are often characterized as showdowns between hard-liners and reformists -- that is, those who brook little change in the existing system and those who seek to reform it from within.
But if Iran has a limited parliamentary system, it remains a state whose inner workings can be far from transparent. That is particularly true of its Ministry of Intelligence and Security -- an institution controlled by hard-liners and with responsibility for assuring, among other things, public security. That ministry has been the focus of one of the most riveting dramas in Iranian public life in recent years -- the murder of four prominent dissidents by what officials later claimed were "rogue" intelligence agents acting on their own. The case -- and suspicions that scores more dissidents might also have been murdered -- raised questions about the extent to which hard-liners in the regime might be terrorizing domestic opponents or critics in order to silence them.
Part 3 of RFE/RL and Radio Farda's series on Iran and terrorism looks at the killings of dissidents in Iran and whether they have contributed to charges that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism. This series is based on material prepared by Radio Farda's Mehdi Khalaji and Ardavan Niknam, with additional reporting by Parichehr Farzam.
Like many revolutions, the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came in two waves. The first wave toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in January 1979. The second consolidated power in the hands of Khomeini and his supporters at the expense of many other groups, including secular ones, which had made common cause with his camp.
The consolidation-of-power phase of the revolution saw the Islamic regime employing its security services against rivals in exile.
Outside Iran, perhaps the best-known case was that of Shahpour Bakhtiar, the last prime minister of the shah's era and a prominent opponent of the Islamic Republic. He was stabbed and killed in his Paris home in 1991. A French investigation led to the imprisonment of several individuals who were believed to have been intelligence agents of the Islamic Republic.
In 1992, an attack on Kurdish opposition leaders in a Berlin restaurant -- the Mykonos -- caused such an uproar that it led to a major breakdown in attempts to improve ties between Iran and the European Union.
Mehdi Ebrahimzadeh was among nine people hit by automatic-weapon fire in the Mykonos. He recalls the trial that followed the incident: "On 17 September 1992, the restaurant was drenched in blood with the commando-style terrorist attack of the agents of the Islamic Republic, in which four opposition figures were murdered. With four to five years of judiciary investigations and hearings that followed, the outcome was the trial of top officials of the Islamic Republic. In April 1997, for the first time a European court issued a sentence, in which it named Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hashemi Rafsanjani, Foreign Minister Ali Velayati and most important of all, Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian, as the person who implemented the collective decision of physically eliminating the opposition -- in this case, the leaders of Democratic Party of Kurdistan. The verdict also mentioned other assassinations, including the assassination of Dr. Qassemlu in Vienna and Dr. Shahpour Bakhtiar in Paris."
Following the German court's verdict, Iranian officials denied having any role in the Mykonos killings. However, European Union countries recalled their ambassadors from Tehran to emphasize that Europe would not tolerate Iranian state sponsorship of terrorism. The ambassadors returned again in late 1997 after the EU became convinced that Iran's Intelligence Ministry -- at least in the future -- would not carry out political assassinations on European soil.
Inside Iran, thousands have perished in apparent assassinations that followed the Islamic Revolution -- including dissidents and intellectuals. But the killings have been obscured by the monolithic structure of the new cleric-led government, the lack of an independent press, and a ban on nongovernmental political bodies.
Nima Rashedan is an Iranian journalist who has studied what he believes is a pattern of political assassinations: "The concern of the plotters of terrorism in the first post-revolution decade was the damage that the victims could inflict upon the foundations of the Revolution in Tehran. Those who were assassinated were considered threats to the Revolution, considered serious threats by fundamentalist revolutionary forces in Tehran. But in the second decade, the trend becomes somewhat more sophisticated. It seems that terror was now used as a lever in foreign policy, as a balancing or sometimes destabilizing ballast in the foreign relations of the Islamic Republic. In the second wave of assassinations -- which statistically is the larger part, under Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian -- individuals were not as important as the very nature of terror was."
Observers suggest that it was only after the election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami in 1997 that an independent press emerged to look into cases where intellectuals or dissidents disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
The first cases to receive significant public attention were the 1998 killings of four liberal dissidents, including well-known secular politician Dariush Foruhar and his wife, Parvaneh. The outcry sparked an investigation that officially blamed "rogue" agents in the Intelligence Ministry with murdering the dissidents on their own initiative. Further investigations were stymied when the accused ringleader of the agents, Said Emami, died in jail. Emami's death was labeled a suicide.
Some journalists who have investigated the killings say they appear to be part of a wider campaign of targeting dissidents, believed to have claimed the lives of 70 to 100 victims.
Many observers suspect that the so-called "rogue" intelligence agents were acting on orders from much higher authorities, possibly the then head of the Intelligence Ministry, Ali Fallahian. But the inconclusive nature of the investigations left such questions unanswered.
Nasser Zarafshan, a lawyer representing the families of the slain dissidents, described the case like this in 2001: "Mr. Fallahian, who was for years the direct superior of Said Emami, and therefore has had direct supervision over his work, says that, 'I will give no explanation without my superior being present.' And thus to avoid the circle of investigations to encompass him, he attaches himself to others. Therefore, people themselves guess what's wrong with the case. The problem is not to which faction the perpetrators of the murders belong, but to which faction the issuer belongs."
Alireza Nourizadeh is a journalist who has investigated a number of dissident deaths. He suggests that former Intelligence Ministry head Fallahian's post appears to have shielded him from more thorough scrutiny: "In the courtyard of the Intelligence Ministry, those who later became the key players in this case were playing soccer when the minister arrived in his Mercedes-Benz. He called out to Mr. Mustafa Kazemi and asked him, 'Why hasn't this job been done?' Later, Mr. Minister fled from prosecution by taking an oath [that he was not involved], and he is now the prosecutor. But four witnesses -- two of whom I have talked to -- have admitted that the minister did come to the courtyard, called Kazemi and Alikhani, and asked them why the job was not done. It was after that talk that they started to act. They went to the Foruhars's house with the false claim that their stolen car had been found. They entered the house and brutally murdered Dariush and Parvaneh -- the latter was sick and in bed upstairs -- and even broke Foruhar's arm."
Journalists and lawyers pressing for information have faced strong official pressure to abandon the case, and several have been imprisoned. One prominent journalist, Akbar Ganji, continues to serve a jail term.
With such unsolved cases, it remains unclear whether hard-line authorities in control of the Intelligence Ministry or other security branches are willing to resort to extrajudicial killings to silence critics.
Reformist Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of the Iranian president and the secretary of the Islamic Iran Participation Party, has warned that what he calls a "cancerous tumor" is still alive and could re-emerge at any moment.
RUSHDIE AFFAIR CONTINUES TO CLOUD TEHRAN'S CLAIMS OF REJECTING VIOLENCE (PART 4). As the United States accuses Iran of state support for terrorism, and Tehran adamantly denies the charge, it can be difficult to judge the merits of each side's arguments. Many of the actions fueling the debate have taken place in an atmosphere of extreme secrecy and with few publicly known details.
But one major incident that is often cited to link Tehran to international terrorism has played out very much in the open. That is the death sentence passed by the Islamic Revolution's founder -- Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- against British author Salman Rushdie in 1989. The death sentence, issued in a fatwa, or religious ruling, called on Muslims anywhere in the world to kill Rushdie for alleged blasphemy against Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
The call shocked much of the world because it appears to be an inducement to murder. It also drove Rushdie into hiding and made him a symbol for critics of the Islamic Republic's policies on free speech, even far from its own borders. Sixteen years later, Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Guard recently declared that the fatwa remains valid, and cash rewards are still being offered for Rushdie's death.
Part 4 of RFE/RL and Radio Farda's series on Iran and terrorism examines the details of the Rushdie case and why it continues to cloud Tehran's assurances that Iran eschews terrorism. This series is based on material prepared by Radio Farda's Mehdi Khalaji and Ardavan Niknam, with additional reporting by Parichehr Farzam.
Ayatollah Khomeini's death sentence against Salman Rushdie captured the world's attention when it was announced in February 1989. In the fatwa -- which was never shown to the public in its original written form -- Khomeini called on Muslims of the world to try to assassinate Rushdie, promising that they would be regarded as "martyrs" if they were killed in the attempt. The fatwa was quickly given added weight by substantial financial rewards offered to any successful assassin. Those rewards were backed by different religious bodies, such as the 15th of Khordad Foundation.
Rushdie was already a controversial author in some parts of the Muslim world even before the fatwa was announced. The reason was that his novel "The Satanic Verses" had made references to verses in the Koran that refer to the worship of idols, something forbidden in Islam. The verses are generally believed by Muslims to have been surreptitiously inserted by Satan into the Prophet Muhammad's message from God.
A number of Muslim leaders in India and Pakistan argued that the novel contained insults to Islam, and some bookshops selling the novel were attacked. In Iran, where the book was translated and published in 1988, it was also labeled as blasphemous by some newspapers. But none of those attacks compared in scale to that of the Islamic Republic's supreme leader.
Experts on Iranian politics continue to discuss today why Ayatollah Khomeini sentenced Rushdie to death. The action shocked the Western world and set back prospects for the Islamic Republic to rebuild trade relations with Europe, even as some capitals suggested Iran was becoming more moderate 10 years after the Islamic Revolution.
Ahmad Salamatian is a former Iranian parliament member and a political analyst in Paris. He says the fatwa was issued mainly to overcome a series of domestic and international crises the Iranian regime was then trying to weather. They included the challenges of recovering from the 1980 to 1988 Iran-Iraq war and the worsening of Ayatollah Khomeini's health.
"The fatwa against Rushdie was one of the Islamic Republic's biggest shows [aimed at] finding an extraordinary presence in domestic and international arenas in order to mobilize parts of its supporters again. In that sense, it is somehow similar to the [November 1979-January 1981 U.S. Embassy] hostage crisis. It coincides with the Islamic Republic's failure to export its revolution through a disastrous eight-year classical war, admitting its failure by the metaphor of 'drinking a goblet of poison.' It also coincides with a major crisis among key bodies of the Islamic Republic following the execution of thousands of political prisoners. It also marks the intensifying of Ayatollah Khomeini's illness 18 months earlier, such that according to his associates, he would fall into a coma for several days or weeks. In the likely absence of Mr. Khomeini, the establishment would have three pillars: Mr. Ahmad Khomeini, Mr. Khamenei, and Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, all of whom were in harsh disagreement over the issue of succession."
One of the fatwa's clear effects was that it created enormous public sympathy for Rushdie in the West. That sympathy increased as Rushdie, who was forced to go into hiding with round-the-clock police protection, showed defiance in the face of the death threat.
Rushdie labeled the anti-religious interpretation of his novel as misguided -- protesting that he had not intended to insult religious concepts. But he also challenged the right of religious leaders to control any author's freedom of expression: "It showed this is a latest stage in a campaign that began with smears and vilifications and distortions of a book, which has escalated into all sorts and levels of violence. And frankly, I wish I had written a more critical book. I mean, religious leaders who are able to behave like this and then say that this is a religion which must be above any whisper of criticism, this doesn't add up. It seems to be that Islamic fundamentalism could do with a little criticism right now."
Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa has been criticized by many religious scholars and even some senior clerics in the Muslim world.
Mehdi Haeri Yazdi, one of Khomeini's prominent pupils and the grandson of the founder of the influential Qom Seminary, wrote that the fatwa was inconsistent with the principles of Islamic law, or Sharia. He also said it was against the interests of Muslim society, which should come before any Sharia tenet.
But if the fatwa against Rushdie is today controversial in parts of the Muslim world, there are no signs that it can safely be ignored. The author continues to live under security restrictions. He has, however, increased his public appearances in an effort to enjoy some semblance of a normal life.
The risks were evident recently when supporters marked 16 years since the Rushdie fatwa was issued. Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which answers directly to the current Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a statement saying it considers the fatwa valid and "irrevocable." The statement warned that "the day will come when they will punish the apostate Rushdie for his scandalous acts and insults against the Koran and the Prophet [Muhammad]."
The statement comes despite the fact that the government of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has long distanced itself from the fatwa in an effort to improve relations with Britain and the European Union.
London and Tehran today enjoy normal diplomatic ties and growing commerce, largely based on the Islamic Republic's assurances that it now rejects terrorism.
HALLIBURTON CONFIRMS IRAN PULLOUT. New York City Comptroller William Thompson said on 24 March that Halliburton, a U.S. oil services company, has agreed not to do any more business in Iran, AFP reported. Three New York City pension funds submitted a shareholder resolution calling for the decision because of their unhappiness with firms that do business with "terrorist-sponsoring nations." Thompson said he hopes other companies follow Halliburton's lead. The letter from Halliburton Vice President Margaret Carriere said the company "will take appropriate corporate action to cause its subsidiaries not to bid for any new work in Iran." Halliburton announced earlier this year that it would discontinue future activities in Iran. (Bill Samii)