19 July 2004, Volume 7, Number 24
STUDENTS STILL IN DETENTION. Iranian Democratic Front spokesman Hussein Zarezadeh told Radio Farda on 12 July that some of the students who were briefly detained on 18 Tir (8 July, the anniversary of student unrest in 1999) were later re-arrested (http://www.radiofarda.com/iran_article/2004/7/23c6bdb3-c799-42b6-9e5c-18776af471a0.html). Zarezadeh said Hussein Gheisari, Behnam Nasserani, Ali Rezai, and Javid Tehrani are among those still being held. Zarezadeh alleged that some of these individuals have been tortured, adding that all of them had been arrested before in connection with student politics. Shiva Nazari and Akram Eghbali are among the students who were arrested and released on 8 July.
Meanwhile, Ali Talai, an official from the Tehran Governorate-General's political-security affairs directorate, said the situation in Tehran was normal on 18 Tir (8 July), "Vaqa-yi Itifaqi-yi" reported on 10 July. Talai said that fewer than 10 people were arrested but that their releases would not be possible until their cases were examined on 10 July.
Said Razavi-Faqih, a leader in the Office for Strengthening Unity (OSU) student organization, told Radio Farda that the Interior Ministry and the university did not allow his organization to stage any events on 8 July. "Since we are committed to avoiding endangering the students by violent or unlawful actions, we could not hold any programs this year," he said. Hojatollah Sharifi, a former member of the OSU's central council, told Radio Farda: "The 9 July anniversary passes in silence and under repression because the ruling authority wants this day to be forgotten." He said that a few small events, such as a photo exhibit at Sharif University, took place and added, "The fact that perpetrators of the 8 July attack continue to hold high-level positions and have become candidates for the legislature has been a slap in the face of the students, who were thrown in jail instead of the perpetrators." (Bill Samii)
EDITOR SUMMONED; DAILY AND MONTHLY BANNED. The court for offenses committed by government employees and the media on 17 July issued a temporary ban against the "Vaqa-yi Itifaqi-yi" daily, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Complaints against the newspaper include propaganda against the state, insulting officials, and publishing lies. The newspaper�s publisher reportedly admitted letting the paper be used by the previously banned "Yas-i No" daily.
"Jomhuriyat" newspaper's license-holder and managing director, Javad Khorrami-Moqaddam, said on 17 July that the newspaper will take a break from publishing for several weeks, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. He was vague on why he was taking this action but hinted at personnel issues.
The court for offenses committed by government employees and the media on 11 July issued an arrest warrant for "Toseh" Editor in Chief Qoli Sheikhi, IRNA reported. The charges against Sheikhi include publishing lies and insults and propagating against the Islamic Republic system. The same court on 11 July issued a temporary ban against publication of "Aftab" monthly, IRNA reported. The judge explained in a letter to the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry that the ban stems from the public prosecutor's complaint against Managing Editor Issa Saharkhiz. Saharkhiz is accused of publishing articles against the Vali-yi Faqih (Supreme Jurisconsult), against the constitution, and against the legislature. He also is accused of disseminating false news.
The second hearing in the trial of Iraj Jamshidi, editor in chief of the economic newspaper "Asia," took place on 11 July, Radio Farda reported. Jamshidi and his lawyer, Nasser Chubdar, entered their defense in the second session. The most serious of the 11 charges against Jamshidi are endangering national security and providing intelligence to foreign services by giving interviews. The next hearing was scheduled for 13 July, Radio Farda reported.
Jamshidi was arrested in July 2003. Following his arrest, the authorities also arrested his son and held him in solitary confinement for 30 days, according to Jamshidi's website (http://www.aydinjamshidi.com/indexenglish/indexenglish.htm). In addition to his work for RFE/RL, according to the website, Jamshidi has worked for the BBC, Radio France International, NHK, KRSI, and Voice of America. (Bill Samii)
REVOLUTIONARY COURT ARRESTS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION LEADERS. Plainclothes policemen arrested Iranian teachers' trade-association Secretary-General Mahmud Beheshti-Langerudi and spokesman Ali-Asgar Zati on 10 July, searched their homes and cars for two hours, and confiscated personal papers and a computer, Radio Farda reported (http://www.radiofarda.com/en_article/2004/7/d5c9f3c1-e37c-48da-8abe-528cbfb9af04.html). Ali Pursuleiman, a member of the association's central council, told Radio Farda that the arrests are a preventive measure in advance of the national meeting of teachers' representatives in Gilan Province. The telephones of other association members have been disconnected, Pursuleiman added.
The teachers have held a number of protests recently (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 13 October 2003 and 26 January, 22 March, and 21 June 2004). According to Pursuleiman, teachers' representatives intend to discuss future actions during the Gilan meeting. It also is possible, Pursuleiman said, that the government objects to the association's criticism of a plan to promote all teachers by one pay grade and then freeze promotions for five years.
Pursuleiman told Radio Farda on 13 July that charges of antigovernment activities were finally filed against his two colleagues, 72 hours after they were arrested. The Tehran judiciary confirmed the arrests to Radio Farda on 12 July and said they were not related to Beheshti-Langerudi's and Zati's activities with the teachers association. Pursuleiman speculated that the judiciary is implying that the two are collaborating with the exiled opposition.
More than 150 members of the teachers association demonstrated against the detention of their colleagues on 18 July, IRNA reported. At a gathering in front of the legislature in Tehran, they also demanded higher pay. One day earlier, President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami told a conference of state education officials that teachers who cannot meet their own basic needs cannot be expected to meet those of their students, IRNA reported. He stressed that the teachers' quality of life should improve. (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN LEGISLATURE APPROVES NEW MINISTER. President Khatami introduced Mohammad-Hussein Sharifzadegan to the legislature on 14 July as his nominee for the post of welfare and social-security minister, state radio and IRNA reported. State radio reported that 132 of the 259 legislators voted in favor of Sharifzadegan. Creation of the ministry is a recent development. Prior to his appointment, Sharifzadegan was an official of the Social Security Organization (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 8 December 2003 and 12 July 2004).(Bill Samii)
AGHAJARI DEFENDS HIMSELF IN COURT. Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization member and university professor Hashem Aghajari on 10 July defended himself in the Tehran Public Court in the final hearing of his retrial, IRNA reported.
Aghajari was sentenced to death in 2002 after criticizing the Iranian clerical system (for his critical comments, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 July 2002; on his court case, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 8 July, 12 August, and 11 November 2002). The death-penalty ruling was overturned in May 2004.
In presenting his oral arguments on 10 July, Aghajari said the charges against him should be dismissed. He explained that, in his controversial 2002 speech, he was only questioning blind acceptance of orders from clerics and was not actually insulting the clerics as such.
Before the session began, according to the Islamic Association of Isfahan University of Technology website (http://www.iutnews.com), 20-30 people gathered in front of the courthouse and chanted slogans such as "Hashem Aghajari must be executed." Some of them managed to enter the courthouse and kept up their chanting. (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN SAYS IT CAN GENERATE ELECTRICITY FROM NUCLEAR POWER. Minister of Mines and Industries Ishaq Jahangiri said in Karaj on 13 July that Iran now can generate electricity using nuclear power, IRNA reported. Jahangiri stressed that Iran has the right to use nuclear power for power-generation purposes and added that its nuclear program reflects Iran's desire to increase its power-production capability to 7,000 megawatts of electricity per year within the next 20 years. (Bill Samii)
NUCLEAR DISCUSSIONS WITH EUROPE -- BUT NOT U.S. President Khatami told reporters on 14 July that there is no point in discussing nuclear-related issues with the United States, state radio and the ISNA reported. "Talks must get results and must be beneficial," he said. "Unfortunately, American behavior and methods have not been correct. It has acted on the basis of its ulterior motives. There is no point in holding talks under such conditions. If we feel that there has been a major change in American policy, then that will create a new situation. We have not felt that way so far." Khatami said Iran has the right to exploit nuclear energy peacefully. "We are prepared to hold talks, even with the Europeans, within the framework provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA]," he said.
Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rohani said on 13 July that Iran will resume atomic-energy-related discussions with France, Germany, and Great Britain later in the month, IRNA reported. Tehran previously expressed unhappiness that the European powers went along with an IAEA Board of Governors resolution that criticized the level of Iranian cooperation with the nuclear watchdog (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 and 28 June 2004). Iran announced in a letter to the head of the IAEA as well as to those three countries that it will resume building centrifuges as of 29 June but will continue to suspend uranium enrichment.
The previous day, Rohani said Iran sees no need to discuss the nuclear issue with the United States, Radio Farda reported, citing state television (http://www.radiofarda.com/iran_article/2004/7/c087d7af-6bab-465b-b315-89d29754949b.html). IAEA Director-General Mohammad el-Baradei reportedly told officials during his March visit to Washington that an Iranian-U.S. dialogue could help resolve questions over the nuclear program. El-Baradei also said he believes the Iranians are amenable to a deal but are waiting for Washington to make the first move (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 22 March 2004). (Bill Samii)
KHAMENEI: ISRAELI, AMERICAN 'AGENTS' BEHIND DECAPITATIONS. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the visiting Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong that he suspects Israel and the United States are behind terrorists' decapitations of hostages in Iraq, state television and IRNA reported. "As far as the perpetrators of terrorist incidents in Iraq are concerned, we are strongly suspicious of Israeli and American agents," he reportedly said. "We do not believe that Muslims took Philippines citizens hostage or murdered people, such as the American citizen." President Khatami also attended the Goh meeting. (Bill Samii)
IRAQI SHI'A LEADER VISITS IRAN. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and a member of the former Iraqi Governing Council, met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and President Khatami in Tehran on 11 June, state television and IRNA reported. Khatami said it is important for the occupation of Iraq to end. Rafsanjani said history shows that the Iraqi people will not tolerate an occupation for long. He added that the establishment of the Iraqi interim government was a "positive step toward full transition of power to the Iraqi people" and said Iran is ready to help the Iraqis.
After meeting with Khatami and Rafsanjani, al-Hakim said ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein will face charges relating to his eight-year war against Iran and other attacks against Iraq's neighbors, "Al-Hayah" reported on 12 July. Al-Hakim said, "There will be a serious follow up of all the crimes that Saddam Hussein had committed and all the cases against him will be heard, including the war on Iran and the former regime's murder and displacement crimes as well as the use of chemical weapons." Al-Hakim rejected reports that Iran is interfering in Iraqi affairs, stating that it is working to promote stability there.
Turning to the Iranian opposition Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), which was hosted in Iraq by former President Hussein, al-Hakim said Baghdad wants to expel MKO members from the country, IRNA reported on 12 July. The problem, he said, is that the United Nations considers the MKO members refugees.
Al-Hakim also met with Supreme National Security Council Secretary Rohani on 12 June, IRNA reported. Rohani told the visitor that Iran wants to continue to have good relations with Iraq. He added that Iran is ready to assist in development of Iraq's trade sector. Rohani said Iraq would be truly independent only when its occupiers leave. He also dismissed any questions about changing the country's borders, stressing that Iraqis should defend their territorial integrity.
"Shi'a Political Alternatives in Postwar Iraq," an article that appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of "Middle East Policy," suggested that Iraqis' support for SCIRI is limited because of its extensive ties with Tehran. A poll conducted at the end of June by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies appears to substantiate this assertion.
According to the poll, 16.5 percent of Iraqis said they would vote for Ibrahim al-Jafari of the Al-Da'wah al-Islamiya party as president, the "Financial Times" reported on 9 July. Al-Da'wah is a predominantly Shi'a organization with a long history of opposition to the former Hussein regime. Other candidates who fared well in the poll were Patriotic Union of Kurdistan leader Jalal Talabani (6.6 percent), former Foreign Minister Adnan Pachachi (4.8 percent); President Ghazi Ajil al-Yawir, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and ousted President Hussein all polled around 2 percent. The "Financial Times" ascribed al-Jafari's popularity to the fact that he is a Shi'a Muslim and to "popular nostalgia" for Al-Da'wah. Notably absent from the "Financial Times" report were candidates associated with SCIRI. (Bill Samii)
SADDAM HUSSEIN TRIAL: IRANIANS WANT JUSTICE... The list is long of those who have suffered because of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror. One can begin with the Iraqi people, especially the Shi'a and Kurdish minorities, and go on to the Kuwaitis, whose country Hussein's troops invaded. But Iran might head the list of aggrieved countries, for it was against that country that Saddam Hussein waged an eight-year war that left at least 200,000 Iranian citizens dead.
Hussein was arraigned on 1 July. The preliminary charges relate to suspected crimes against humanity committed during his Ba'ath Party's 35-year rule over Iraq. These charges reportedly relate to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait; the 1988 chemical attacks on Iraqi Kurds in Halabja; the 1974 intentional killing of Iraqi religious figures; the 1983 killing of Barzani clan members; the 1987-88 Anfal campaign against the Kurds; and the suppression of the Kurdish and Shi'a uprisings in 1991. (On Halabja and the Anfal campaign, see http://www.hrw.org/reports/1993/iraqanfal/.)
"Saddam must be tried in a very open court," Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said in the second sermon of the 2 July Friday prayers in Tehran, according to state radio. "He must be allowed to say what he wishes to say; the Americans should say what they want to say; the [Iraqi] people should express their views; and we should say what we want, too."
Rafsanjani questioned why none of the initial charges against Hussein relate to Iran. He asked rhetorically, "Have you not heard of the 100,000 victims of chemical weapons in Iran?" Rafsanjani said that, in some cases, it is only now that the symptoms of chemical poisoning are becoming apparent. "One of them [the victims] is my own son," Rafsanjani said. "He thought he had not been infected." The cleric referred to the Iraqi chemical attacks on the Kurdish towns of Halabja in Iraq in March 1988 and Sardasht in western Iran in June 1987; he claimed that although the initial chemical attacks on Iranians were ineffective, later ones had a bigger impact because of scientific and technical assistance from the West.
Iran first reported an Iraqi chemical attack in November 1980. In December 1982, Iraq began using mustard agents against Iranian forces. An Iraqi mustard-agent attack near Haj Umran in July 1983 reportedly failed because the Iraqis were unfamiliar with the agent's properties. Large amounts of mustard were fired at attacking Iranians near Penjwin in November 1983. More mustard, and possibly the nerve agent tabun, was used on Majnoon Island in February and March 1984. The mustard and tabun combination was used against Iranian forces in the Hawizah Marsh in March 1985 and in the Faw peninsula in February 1986. Iraq used sulfur mustard against Iranian troops near Umm al Rasas in December 1986.
From April 1988 onward, Iraq is believed to have used sarin and other nerve agents against Iranian forces on the Faw peninsula. There were allegations that Iraq used VX gas against Iranian forces on the peninsula in April 1988. In June of that year, Iraq reportedly used mustard, cyanide, and nerve agents on Majnoon Island. (For a chronology on the Iraqi chemical campaign, see http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Iraq/Chemical/3883_3895.html)
In a 4 July meeting with visiting UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Rafsanjani said the trial ignored Iranians' rights and Iraqis' sovereignty, IRNA reported. He ascribed this to alleged U.S. interference and said, "It is the duty of the United Nations not to let the rights of the Iranian nation be trampled on."
Other Iranian officials shared Rafsanjani's sentiments: Parliamentarians Alaedin Borujerdi (ILNA, 3 July), Ali Ahmadi (IRNA, 3 July), and Gholamali Haddad-Adel (IRNA, 4 July); Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry Adviser Mohammad Sadeq al-Husseini ("The Daily Star," 3 July); Islamic Revolution Guards Corps spokesman General Masud Jazayeri ("Tehran Times," 5 July) also spoke out about Iran's grievances against Saddam.
Supreme Leader Khamenei said on 6 July, "Initiation of eight years of war against Iran should be the most important issue in the letter of indictment against the former dictator of Iraq," state television reported. "This is because this war was imposed on the Iranian and Iraqi nations and consumed a considerable portion of both countries' resources." Khamenei also claimed that the United States was Saddam Hussein's accomplice in the war against Iran.
Tehran is not restricting itself to rhetoric. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi announced on 4 July that Iran would file a complaint against Hussein with the court that is trying him, IRNA reported. "Saddam's trial should be on camera and transparent and deal with all his crimes so that the reasons behind such crimes is clarified," Assefi added. Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said on 5 July that the complaint would be in line with international law, IRNA reported.
Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi said at a 5 July meeting of judiciary officials that he has instructed the state prosecutor-general to draw up an indictment and added that the judiciary and the Foreign Ministry must coordinate their actions, state television reported.
The state attorney's office held its first meeting on the issue on 10 July, IRNA reported. Attorney-General Ayatollah Abdulnabi Namazi, who presided over the meeting, said the charges against Hussein are multidimensional because his crimes include the detention, imprisonment, and torture of Iranians; expulsion of ethnic Iranians from Iraq; and the massacre of Iranians in border towns. Namazi added that Hussein was behind the destruction of agricultural facilities, refineries, and factories, the bombing of schools, and the launching of chemical attacks. (Bill Samii)
...AS DO SUFFERING IRAQIS. Bushra Askar, a resident of Baghdad's predominantly Shi'a neighborhood of Al-Sadr City, said on 2 July: "What do I want from the trial? I want the court to sentence him to death and hang him in a square in central Baghdad, similar to what he had done to our young sons when he buried them," Reuters reported. "I have two missing nephews; he deported their family and then he took them. They did not do anything wrong. We are still searching for them."
Basim al-Sheikh, editor in chief of Baghdad's "Al-Dustur," said in a 1 July telephone interview with Al-Jazeera that the Iraqi public's reaction to Saddam Hussein's arraignment has been mixed. In some parts of the country there was increased violence and a heightened level of tension, while "other areas rejoiced." The Iraqi people are determined to see Hussein punished for his crimes, "the effects of which are still apparent in their daily life." (Bill Samii)
SYRIANS DISCUSS IRAQ IN IRAN. President Bashar al-Assad made his third visit to Tehran on 4-5 July, international news agencies reported. Al-Assad met Supreme Leader Khamenei, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and President Khatami during his trip. Events in Iraq appear to have dominated the discussions.
After receiving his visitor, Khatami told reporters of his preferred solution to the Iraqi crisis. "The only way to resolve the situation is to end the occupation and install a democratic government that represents all the Iraqi people and ethnic groups," he said according to ISNA. He added that Tehran and Damascus can play prominent roles in establishing security and stability in Iraq.
Al-Assad said, "Damascus has always had similar positions with Tehran on Iraq's territorial integrity, the right to self-determination of the Iraqi people and the need for occupying troops to withdraw from Iraq," IRNA reported.
Rafsanjani told his visitor that the Iraqi situation is the major problem facing the region and the Islamic world, IRNA reported. He said resolution of regional problems requires that Iraq's neighbors have a common approach, and he called for an end to the occupation and for elections. Rafsanjani also warned of alleged Israeli and American conspiracies.
Syrian Information Minister Ahmad al-Hassan said in an interview that appeared in "Al-Hayat" on 7 July that al-Assad's talks in Tehran demonstrated that "the two countries' political stands are fully identical." He explained, "The two countries agree on the principal points in the Iraqi issue; that is, both are interested in the restoration of full sovereignty to Iraq and the speedy ending of the occupation and therefore the quicker alleviation of the Iraqi people's suffering and the creation of the positive conditions that allow the selection of a government that represents the Iraqi people's entire spectrum."
Al-Hassan went on to say that regional acceptance of the Iraqi government will improve "the more it frees itself from the yoke of occupation." He continued, "But as Syria and Iran are two major countries among Iraq's neighboring countries, there has to be coordination between them on everything that concerns them."
Al-Assad's trip to Tehran took place amid reports that Iran and Syria are taking a relaxed approach to security along their borders with Iraq, thereby facilitating the entry of foreign fighters (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 5 July 2004). Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said, in an interview that appeared in "The New York Times" on 12 July that Iraq wants regional states to clamp down on this border traffic. Zebari added that pinning down possible state support of the insurgency in his country is "very difficult."
Syrian Information Minister Al-Hassan described Zebari's earlier statements about Syrian and Iranian support for infiltrators as "unfair and baseless," "Al-Hayah" reported. (Bill Samii)
SYRIAN BUSINESS DELEGATIONS VISIT IRAN. A sizable delegation of Syrian officials accompanied President Hafez al-Assad on his early-July trip to Iran. A group of Syrians visited the Azarab and Machin-Sazi Arak industrial units on 10 July, IRNA reported. The two sides discussed the expansion of technical and economic relations, and they focused on an industrial exchange. An unnamed official from Syria's Hamas Refinery reportedly mentioned the transfer of gas, as well as the production of gas turbines, generators, boilers, and other equipment.
Oil Minister Ibrahim Haddad said in a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh that Syria hopes to benefit from Iran's experience in the petrochemical sector, IRNA reported. Haddad reportedly expressed a specific interest in an urban gas-delivery network and the use of compressed natural gas in motor vehicles; Zanganeh was said to have expressed readiness to help. (Bill Samii)
ANKARA AND TEHRAN COOPERATE AGAINST KURDS -- AND ISRAEL? Recent border clashes involving Iranian troops and members of the Turkish Kongra-Gel organization (formerly known as the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK]) were discussed at a joint Iran-Turkey security meeting in Ankara, CNN Turk reported on 12 July. Officials from the armed forces general staff, Interior Ministry, Gendarmerie, National Intelligence Organization, and Security Directorate represented the Turkish side, while Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Ali Asqar Ahmadi represented Iran.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi confirmed on 11 July that two Iranian border guards and unknown number of Kongra-Gel personnel were killed in an incident in late June, IRNA reported (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12 July 2004). Tehran dailies reported more clashes on 10 July amid descriptions of an offensive "on Ankara's behalf," AFP reported on 11 July. The newspapers referred to fighting near Baneh, a town in Kurdistan Province that is some 200 kilometers from Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to visit Tehran at the end of July, Anatolia news agency reported on 13 July, at which time he is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding relating to the security issues discussed in Ankara.
It is unclear whether other factors are motivating Tehran's actions against the Kongra-Gel. The organization has received "safe haven and modest aid" from Iran, according to the U.S. State Department's annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report (http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2003/31711.htm). The report goes on to say that Iran appears to cooperate with Turkey against the Kongra-Gel "in a limited fashion when it serves [its] immediate interests."
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in the 28 June issue of "The New Yorker" that Israeli military and intelligence specialists are training Kurdish commandos and have penetrated Iranian territory to install devices that target suspected Iranian nuclear facilities. An Israeli spokesman denied this, but an anonymous "senior C.I.A. official" reportedly confirmed it in an interview with Hersh. The Israeli operation is unwelcome in Turkey, Hersh wrote, citing "Intel Brief," a privately circulated intelligence newsletter that said the encouragement of Kurdish ambitions for an independent state is causing concern in Turkey. (Bill Samii)
AFGHANISTAN'S HERAT PROVINCE GETS NEW IRANIAN CONSUL. The governor of Afghanistan's Herat Province, Ismail Khan, hosted a reception on 9 July for new Iranian consul Mohammad Ali Najafimanesh, Herat Television reported. Najafimanesh expressed his eagerness to work with the people of Herat. Najafimanesh's predecessor, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, now serves as the charge d'affaires in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12 April 2004). (Bill Samii)
IRAN SEIZES QATARI VESSELS. An anonymous Iranian Interior Ministry official said on 13 July that the regular navy had confiscated two Qatari launches that entered Iranian waters illegally, ISNA reported. According to Iranian state television on 9 July, Kuwait seized three Iranian fishing boats, Reuters reported. An anonymous Iranian official said on 10 July that the crews of the impounded boats were released and soon would be in Iranian hands. There has been a spate of such incidents recently, as Iran and the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf enforce their borders more aggressively (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 21 June and 5 July 2004). (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN NEWSPAPER: BRITISH NAVAL INCURSION WAS PLANNED. "Jomhuri-yi Islami" reported on 14 July that in an incident the previous month, British naval vessels intentionally entered Iranian waters despite London's claims to the contrary. Tehran seized three British patrol boats and held their crews for several days after they were alleged to have entered Iranian territorial waters along the Shatt al-Arab. After the crew's release, London said the vessels were forcibly escorted into Iranian waters before being seized (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 28 June and 5 July 2004). The British vessels and all the equipment aboard them are still in Iranian hands. Commander Tangsiri, who commands the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' third naval district, said an examination of the British global-positioning system registered the details of the vessels' locations, "Jomhuri-yi Islami" reported. The United Kingdom is demanding the return of the boats and equipment, according to "Jomhuri-yi Islami," only to prevent the revelation of other secrets. (Bill Samii)
SUSPECTED AL-QAEDA ASSOCIATE SURRENDERS IN IRAN. Khalid bin Ouda bin Muhammad al-Harbi (aka Abu Suleiman al-Makki), who was seen talking to Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a 2001 videotape, returned to Saudi Arabia on 13 July after turning himself in to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, international news agencies reported. He reportedly was living in the Afghanistan-Iran border area and responded to a 30-day amnesty program that the Saudis announced on 23 June.
In a statement broadcast by Al-Arabiyah television on 13 June, al-Harbi said that upon arriving at the embassy, "We felt as if we were among family." He added, "There is no doubt that this graceful initiative by the king, the custodian of the two Holy Mosques, and his highness the crown prince is a grace and opportunity."
A 14 July report in London's Arabic-language "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" newspaper quoted an anonymous source in the Iranian presidency who said it was Tehran that handed al-Harbi over to Riyadh, Reuters reported. According to "Al-Sharq al-Awsat," al-Harbi was being held at an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps safe house and was informed about two weeks ago that he would be sent home. The extradition, the daily reported, was in response to a Saudi request to Iranian President Khatami. Khatami, however, denied receiving such a request, Reuters reported.
Late on 13 July, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Assefi said that al-Harbi was extradited at his own request, IRNA reported. Assefi claimed that al-Harbi crossed the Iranian border illegally just so he could ask to be sent to Saudi Arabia.
Anonymous U.S. intelligence officials cited by the "Los Angeles Times" on 14 July downplayed the significance of this event, saying that al-Harbi is unlikely to have valuable information on bin Laden or Al-Qaeda. One official said, "He is really an extremist cleric who had more influence and impact around the time we saw him in that bin Laden video."
Riyadh is offering rewards of up to $2 million for individuals on its "most wanted" list. Thirteen of the people on that list remain at large, "The Christian Science Monitor" reported on 14 July, and there are dozens more who are being sought but are not on the list. Al-Harbi's actions, therefore, might not have a significant impact on quelling terrorism, but the Saudi amnesty offer could.
Crown Prince Abdullah promised in a 23 June speech that people who turn themselves in will be treated fairly and will be spared the death penalty, the "Los Angeles Times" reported on 24 June. "God is merciful," he said. "For the last time, we are opening the door to repentance for everyone who has gone out of the righteous way and who has committed a crime for religion."
Five days later, Othman al-Amri, who is on the most-wanted list and has been on the run for more than a year, surrendered to the authorities, "The Guardian" reported on 29 June.
Others have reacted more defiantly. Two fugitive militants vowed that they would not surrender in letters posted on Jihadist websites, "The Christian Science Monitor" reported: "Jihad is an ideology that runs through our veins and beats in our hearts. Oh tyrants, God promised us either victory or martyrdom, and you promised us amnesty then prison. We will not abandon God's promise." (Bill Samii)
FORMER HIZBALLAH SECRETARY-GENERAL CONTINUES CRITICISM OF IRAN. There is no let-up in former Hizballah Secretary-General Subih Tufaili's criticism of his former patrons in Iran (for his earlier comments, see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 13 October 2003 and 19 January 2004). Tufaili, who lives on the outskirts of Baalbek, Lebanon, believes he is effectively under house arrest because of a "tacit, tripartite agreement" between Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei, Lebanese Shi'a leaders, and the regime in Damascus, according to an interview published in "The Daily Star" on 14 July. Tufaili accused Iran of "executing America's agenda in the whole region" and said Iranian policy and religious ideology "hurt Islam and the Muslims' causes in their fight for freedom and liberation." He said Iran is preventing unity between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims. "The Iranian leadership is begging for a role in Iraq similar to that in Afghanistan; covering up for the occupation by concealing its long-term, true intensions," he added. (Bill Samii)