11 October 2004, Volume 7, Number 35
PLANS PROLIFERATE FOR INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY MINISTRY REORGANIZATION. During the Pahlavi regime, Iran had one main intelligence agency -- Sazeman-i Ettelaat va Amniyat-i Keshvar (SAVAK, the Intelligence and Security Organization) -- and several smaller bodies that dealt with oversight activities, such as the Daftar-i Vizhe-yi Ettelaat (Special Intelligence Bureau) and the Bazrasi-yi Shahanshahi (Imperial Inspectorate). SAVAK was eliminated after the 1979 revolution and a number of competing organizations emerged to deal with intelligence and security. In 1984 the parliament passed legislation that centralized these organizations into one ministry.
Top officials gathered in Tehran on 5 October to commemorate the Intelligence and Security Ministry's 20th anniversary. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref-Yazdi said on 5 October that the government is working on reorganizing the ministry's administrative structure, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. Aref-Yazdi added that the ministry should consolidate and assume its appropriate place in the country's management system.
The actual structure of the ministry is unimportant, Intelligence and Security Minister Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi said in a 4 October interview on state television. He said the Intelligence and Security Ministry needed restructuring after a number of crises (a reference to the 1998-99 serial killings of dissidents by alleged rogue elements within the ministry), and "the ministry made itself up to date." Yunesi said the experience of Intelligence and Security Ministry specialists is being documented in a way that can be passed on to future generations -- "We see this as part of the renovation of the ministry."
Parliamentarians affiliated with the conservative Islamic Iran Developers Council (Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami) are working on legislation that would place the Intelligence and Security Ministry under the conservative-controlled judiciary, according to a 1 October article about Iranian neoconservatives on the Eurasia Insight website (http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav100104.shtml).
Such a development would consolidate control of security institutions in the hands of regime hard-liners who are said to control their own, extra-governmental surveillance structures. These "parallel intelligence organizations" are allegedly controlled by an "antireform headquarters" that emerged after reformists won the 2001 parliamentary elections (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 16 July 2001, 15 September 2003, and 19 January 2004).
Yunesi said that his priority has been winning public trust and eliminating fear, state television reported on 4 October. "An intelligence service should bring people peace of mind and tranquility rather than fear," he explained. Yunesi said that counterterrorism is the ministry's main duty, and because the armed opposition is concentrated in one organization this is relatively easy. He added that the ministry has assets in many of the overseas opposition groups and knows ahead of time about their agents' trips to Iran. Dealing with social and financial corruption is more complicated, Yunesi said, because it occurs throughout society.
Referring to the country's ethnic and religious minorities, Yunesi said, "We have good cooperation with all religious sects and denominations." He said the Intelligence and Security Ministry will not allow Iran's enemies to infiltrate these groups to spread dissent, adding, "Attempts have always been made to identify extremist and radical views among these religious sects and denominations and to aggrandize them." Yunesi did not specify when this has occurred, but he said the ministry has always taken action when appropriate.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 4 October praised the efforts of the ministry as the organization marked its establishment 20 years earlier, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)
IRAN GETS NEW TRANSPORT MINISTER. Deputy Roads and Transport Minister in charge of economic affairs Ahmad Sadeq Bonab has been appointed as the acting roads and transport minister, government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh announced on 4 October according to IRNA.
The previous day, 188 out of 258 members of parliament approved a vote of no confidence in Roads and Transport Minister Ahmad Khoram on grounds of "wastefulness" and the appointment of incompetent subordinates, news agencies reported. Lawmakers objected to the money spent on the inauguration of the new Imam Khomeini International Airport near Tehran, which the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) shut in May alleging security flaws (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 17 May 2004). The airport remains closed.
Khoram criticized the IRGC during parliamentary questioning and accused it of staging a coup, conservative Bushehr parliamentary representative Shokrullah Atarzadeh told the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on 4 October. Atarzadeh claimed that IRGC personnel had lost their lives in protecting the as-yet-nonfunctioning airport.
Ramezanzadeh said Khoram is now a presidential adviser. First Vice President Mohammad Reza Aref criticized the timing of the interpellation, pointing out that the government is currently reviewing and revising the fourth development plan and the annual budget, Iranian state radio reported. (Bill Samii, Vahid Sepehri)
VICE PRESIDENT SUBMITS RESIGNATION. Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Hojatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi has submitted his resignation, international news agencies reported on 4 October. Abtahi explained, "Because my political opinion is different from the majority of the Majlis [parliament] deputies, it has been a long time since I have come to conclude that I can no longer continue my responsibility," the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported. In his letter of resignation, Abtahi underlined his inability to create a harmonious relationship between the executive and legislative branches, Fars News Agency reported.
Anonymous "sources close to the government" said that former Tehran legislative representative Hojatoleslam Majid Ansari, a member of the pro-reform Militant Clerics Association (Majma-yi Ruhaniyun-i Mubarez), could succeed Abtahi.
Abtahi submitted his resignation to President Khatami prior to the president's departure on a trip to Algeria, Sudan, and Oman, Fars News Agency reported. Khatami rejected Abtahi's previous resignation, which he submitted after the seventh parliamentary elections in February. Khatami has yet to accept Abtahi's resignation, government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said on 4 October, IRNA reported. (Bill Samii)
PERSONNEL DEVELOPMENTS IN ARMED FORCES. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Brigadier General Karim Qavami as commander of the regular air force, IRNA reported on 5 October. Qavami replaces Reza Pardis. In another important appointment, Brigadier General Hessam Hashemi succeeds Abdullah Najafi as regular armed forces intelligence chief. (Bill Samii)
IRAN CONDEMNS ISRAELI ACTIVITIES IN GAZA. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's permanent representative to the United Nations, on 4 October condemned Israeli military activities in the Gaza Strip, IRNA reported. Zarif described Israeli actions as "war crimes" and said the only solution is the withdrawal of Israelis from Palestinian lands and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Current Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operations in the northern Gaza Strip commenced on 30 September as part of Operation Days of Repentance, "The Jerusalem Post" reported on 3 October. Activities initially focused on the Jabalya refugee camp and were intended to eliminate Qassam rocket attacks. On 5 October a missile fired from an Israeli aircraft killed two members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and wounded eight others, witnesses and Palestinian security forces said, "The Jerusalem Post" reported. Later, IDF missiles killed Islamic Jihad's Bashir Dabash and Zarees Alareer as they rode in an automobile.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 2 October condemned the Israeli operation, IRNA reported. Referring to "the Zionist regime's escalation of military approaches and its ruthless massacre of innocent people in the Gaza Strip," Assefi accused Israel of "continued genocide" and said it is violating international law. (Bill Samii)
IRAN AND SYRIA TO CONFRONT U.S. President Khatami arrived in Damascus on 7 October in a last-minute addition to a trip that had already taken to Algeria, Sudan, and Oman (see below). Khatami told Syrian television, according to Syria's official SANA news agency, that U.S. and Israeli "pressure on Syria, Iran, and Lebanon is nothing new. It always existed. Cooperation among us would drive this pressure away from all of us." Khatami told Hizballah's Al-Manar television that the three countries are coordinating their activities to withstand such pressure. What Khatami referred to as Israeli and U.S. "pressure" is UN Resolution 1559, which calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon and the disarming of militias there.
Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi discussed Israel's allegedly "inhuman operations" against Palestinian Arabs, as well as Iraq and the Darfur crisis in Sudan, with President Bashar al-Assad, Vice President Abd al-Halim Khaddam, and Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara, SANA reported. After the meeting, Khatami visited the shrines of Zeinabieh and Ruqayyah (the sister and daughter of the third Shi'a imam). This was Khatami's third visit to Syria since taking office. (Bill Samii)
IMPLICATIONS OF NEW INTERNATIONAL CONSENSUS ON LEBANON.
By Gary Gambill
Great Power recognition of Syrian hegemony in Lebanon formally came to an end in early September when the UN Security Council called for the withdrawal "without delay" of all foreign forces, the disarmament of all paramilitary groups, and the constitutional election of a new Lebanese president. Although virtually ignored by the mainstream Western media, UN Security Council Resolution 1559 has far-reaching implications for the Middle East.
The international community had been conspicuously silent about the world's sole remaining satellite state since invading Syrian forces swept away the last remnants of Lebanon's First Republic in October 1990. Western governments initially turned a blind eye to this seizure in exchange for Syria's decision to endorse Operation Desert Storm and participate in the Arab-Israeli peace process, but it was Syria's success in pacifying the war-torn country and maintaining postwar political stability that ensured tacit international consent for the occupation throughout the 1990s.
The unraveling of tacit international consent for the occupation came about as the result of a policy alignment between the United States and France, who jointly co-sponsored Resolution 1559 and vigorously lobbied other council members to win their approval (or decision to abstain). Cynical Lebanese political commentators liken this rare display of trans-Atlantic solidarity to a solar eclipse. When different motivations propel governments into alignment on an issue, the diplomatic equilibrium may be spectacular, but it is usually fleeting due to the multiplicity of independent variables sustaining it. In this case, however, Franco-American consensus on Lebanon will not be so easily undone.
The United States began rescinding its recognition of Syrian hegemony in March 2003, when Secretary of State Colin Powell used the term "occupation" (hitherto absent from U.S. diplomatic parlance on Lebanon for over a decade) to describe the Syrian presence in Lebanon. This policy shift, along with parallel pressures on Syria to stop sponsoring terrorist groups and developing weapons of mass destruction, was essentially a punitive response to Syrian intervention in Iraq, culminating in the Bush administration's decision to impose economic sanctions earlier this year.
In Paris, this escalation of U.S. pressure on Syria was seen as a window of opportunity to advance French interests in Lebanon. The top grievance of the French, who have long-standing historical ties to Lebanese Maronite Christians, was the obstruction of Lebanon's economic recovery by its Syrian-backed president, Emile Lahud. In the fall of 2002, France persuaded international donors to provide over $4 billion in debt-relief assistance to Lebanon, in return for relatively modest economic-reform pledges. However, fearing that a more open economy would weaken their political power, Lahud and the security establishment prevented Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri from implementing any of these pledges.
In France, which once treated Assad as a modernizing reformer worthy of two state visits to Paris, this precipitated a strategic (not merely punitive) decision to begin publicly denouncing the occupation early in 2004, often in conjunction with the United States. The French policy shift greatly increased U.S. leverage over Syria by facilitating broader European and international coordination on Lebanon, which in turn precipitated a U.S. shift from punitive to strategic pressure.
There was a time when either major Syrian concessions to the United States on Iraq or limited accommodation of French interests in Lebanon could have disrupted the formation of this diplomatic equilibrium, but Assad missed the deadline. In recent months, Syria began taking limited steps to reduce terrorist infiltration of Iraq, but they were not sufficient to prompt a reevaluation of policy in Washington. France would have been satisfied had Syria allowed Lahud's departure from office this fall at the end of his six-year term (as the Lebanese Constitution requires), but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was too concerned that Lahud's departure would strengthen Hariri, a billionaire who has strong U.S., European, and Saudi ties, and lead him to gravitate further from the Syrian orbit.
Syria's decision in late August to force the Lebanese cabinet and parliament to amend the constitution and extend Lahud's term was the final straw. French officials, who had loudly criticized U.S. economic sanctions on Syria as heavy-handed, now advocated a much more painful (and irreversible) form of international censure -- the first Security Council resolution in two decades to dispute Syrian control of Lebanon.
Assad will not simply comply with Resolution 1559. Since the early 1990s, the cash-strapped Syrian government has grown more and more financially dependent on remittances from over 1 million Syrian workers living in Lebanon, favorable asymmetric trade relations, and kickbacks from institutionalized corruption -- none of which can be preserved for long if Syrian troops depart. The Assad regime cannot survive without its Lebanon lifeline -- unless it either carries out major economic reforms at home (of which it appears manifestly incapable) or receives substantial foreign aid (which doesn't appear forthcoming).
In recent weeks, Syria has frantically sought to disrupt Franco-American consensus by accepting a range of U.S. demands concerning Iraq and carrying out a limited redeployment of Syrian troops from Lebanon. But Resolution 1559 has been met with considerable support in the Arab world -- Jordan and the six Gulf Cooperation Council states even brought forth an unsuccessful motion in the Arab League to endorse Resolution 1559. In such an atmosphere, Washington will not want to be seen as backsliding on its commitment to Lebanese sovereignty.
Syria's biggest problem, however, is that Resolution 1559 is making Lebanon ungovernable. Domestic opposition to Syrian hegemony has long been checked by international approval of the occupation. When asked why they have been unable to mount a more robust challenge to Syrian authority, Lebanese opposition leaders typically cite the muted international reaction to the arrests of over 200 anti-Syrian activists in August 2001. Ordinary citizens are much more willing to participate in public demonstrations against the occupation if they know that a massive crackdown by the authorities will elicit a torrent of international criticism.
Even within Lebanon's traditionally quietist political elite, challenges to Syria are mounting. The traditional Christian political elite is now voicing its opposition to Syrian hegemony more strongly than ever before. They have been joined by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and his political allies, who voted against Lahud's term extension in parliament and subsequently withdrew from the cabinet. Hariri, the most powerful Sunni politician in Lebanon, is widely expected to step down as prime minister and join the opposition. Only those who see no political future for themselves in a postoccupation, pro-Western Lebanon still display unswerving loyalty to Damascus. If the current international consensus endures, Syria's rump satellite regime in Beirut will be not be able to maintain its grip on power without resorting to a level of coercion likely to further isolate both countries and precipitate their economic collapse.
(Gary Gambill is a political analyst at Freedom House and adjunct professor at College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York City)
KHATAMI VISITS ALGERIA, SUDAN, AND OMAN. President Khatami left Tehran for Algiers on 2 October, and was greeted at the airport by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algerian radio reported. Khatami later told his counterpart that the two countries could cooperate in "technical and engineering services, oil, gas, petrochemistry [sic] and intermediate industries," IRNA reported on 3 October. On the first day of the visit, the two sides signed an agreement on animal health, as well as memoranda of understanding on small and medium enterprises, handicrafts, fisheries, and housing, Algerian television reported.
Algerian Prime Minister Ahmad Ouyahia met with Khatami on 3 October. During their meeting, the two leaders discussed the expansion of economic ties, IRNA reported, as well as events in Iraq and Israel. Khatami also met with parliamentary speaker Ammar Saidani on 3 October and addressed the legislature, IRNA reported. The legislature awarded Khatami a Robe of Courage.
Khatami traveled on to Khartoum on 4 October, Sudan television reported. Iranian Agriculture Jihad Minister Mahmud Hojjati and three Sudanese officials signed agreements on the elimination of double taxation, on agricultural quarantines, and on banking in the presence of Khatami and his Sudanese counterpart, Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, IRNA reported. In his meeting with al-Bashir, Khatami said both Iran and Sudan pursue Islamically based democracy and progress. Khatami added that Iran supports the Sudanese government's activities in southern Sudan.
Before leaving Khartoum, Khatami told the Sudanese legislature that Iran is committed to a peaceful solution in Darfur, IRNA reported. "In addition to providing humanitarian aid to Darfur," he said, Iran is ready to "help the Sudanese government and people in ending the crisis and safeguarding the rights and freedoms of the people in the region." An Iranian aircraft carrying 43 tons of medicine and other relief materials arrived at Khartoum airport on 5 October, Suna news agency reported. On the same day, Foreign Minister Kharrazi visited Darfur and met with Governor General Osman Youssef, IRNA reported. Kharrazi said Iran is ready to send more humanitarian aid and added that African and Islamic countries must do more to help the people of Darfur. Kharrazi last visited Sudan in July.
Khatami arrived in Muscat, Oman, on 6 October, IRNA reported, where he met with Sultan Qabus bin-Said al-Said that evening and pledged that Iran will do all it can to promote stability in Iraq. They also discussed Palestinian affairs. Also in attendance were Iran's Foreign Minister Kharrazi, Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Ali Shamkhani, and Industries and Mines Minister Ishaq Jahangiri, IRNA reported.
Jahangiri and Oman's Commerce, Industry, and Minerals Minister Maqbul bin Ali bin-Sultan signed an agreement on eliminating double taxation and a letter of understanding on tourism. (Bill Samii)
PLANNED IRAQI ELECTION INTERESTS IRAN. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said on 3 October that Iran might attend a U.S.-sponsored meeting in Cairo, scheduled for late November, to discuss the general elections due in Iraq in January 2005, the BBC reported. He gave no further details. Iran "welcomes any initiative to create stability in Iraq, but the manner...and details of Iran's presence at the meeting will be clarified later," IRNA quoted Assefi as saying.
Iraqi sources are already expressing concern about the nature of Iranian involvement.
Tens of thousands of Iranians have entered Iraq and are applying for citizenship so that they can participate in the planned election, according to a statement from the Popular Struggle Movement cited by Baghdad's "Al-Ittijah al-Akhar" on 3 October. These Iranians reportedly are coordinating their activities with "Iraqi parties with sectarian tendencies," which is presumably a reference to predominantly Shi'a parties such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Al-Da'wah al-Islamiya.
The Iraq for All News Network (http://www.iraq4allnews.dk) claimed on 27 September that Iraqis in southern and central Iraq have been helping Iranians obtain identification cards in order to vote in the elections. The website said that the Iranians have obtained civil-status identity cards and citizenship certificates from government offices in central and southern Iraq. The website further claims that SCIRI, Al-Da'wah, the Iraqi National Congress, and supporters of Abd al-Karim al-Mahmadawi are all involved in the scheme. "The aim is to gradually Persianize the regions of southern Iraq in order to ensure their allegiance to the Iranian regime," the website contends.
Beirut's "Al-Mustaqbal" reported on 30 September that some Iraqi political groups have expressed "anxiety" after learning that Iran is funding the prominent Shi'a political parties. The report claims that Iran has given tens of millions of dollars and "other resources" to parties including SCIRI and Al-Da'wah. The daily also reported that "tens of thousands" of Iranians are getting Iraqi identification cards with the help of the Shi'ite parties in order to vote in the election.
While there is little reason to doubt claims of Iranian infiltration in Iraq, the "tens of thousands" figure smacks of exaggeration. Regardless, Shi'a political organizations with Iranian ties reportedly have entered into discussions about forging an alliance in preparation for the January elections. SCIRI spokesman Rida Jawad Taqi said that leaders from SCIRI and Al-Da'wah met on 5 September to discuss the possibility of merging the two parties into an election alliance, Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day. Taqi added that SCIRI was also courting smaller Shi'a groups, such as the Al-Fadilah Party, and an splinter group of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr followers led by Muhammad al-Ya'qubi. A SCIRI-Da'wah alliance would arguably form the largest political grouping in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 10 September 2004).
Assefi separately deplored the deaths of "innocent women and children" in the recent U.S. offensive in Iraq that led to the capture of the insurgent stronghold of Samarra on 3 October, IRNA reported. (Vahid Sepehri, Kathleen Ridolfo, Bill Samii)
IRAN-IRAQ BORDER REMAINS POROUS. Iranian police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said on 7 October that his organization is doing all it can to secure the Iran-Iraq border but "the Iraqi side is not doing the same," state radio reported. He added that weapons stolen from Iraqi military garrisons are being smuggled into Iran via the southern and northwestern border areas, and these weapons are being used in armed robberies in Iran.
Abadan police chief Colonel Morteza Dibai claimed on 9 October that Jews and Israelis are involved in the Iraq-to-Iran arms traffic, Fars News Agency reported. He added that U.S. Army intelligence and Iraqi security personnel are involved with arms, alcohol, and satellite-receiver trafficking.
Abadan police and border security official Captain Issa Maknali said that, in the October 2003-September 2004 period, some 7,000 illegal pilgrims were arrested as they tried to enter Iraq, "Iran Daily" reported. He added that 25 people smugglers were arrested, and that people trying to visit Iraqi shrines illegally will be fined 50,000 rials (about $6.25).
"Mardom Salari" newspaper reported on 4 October that an "important" member of the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO), who was hiding in a men's room at the Shalamcheh border crossing, was arrested. The Iranian government has offered an amnesty to lower-ranking MKO members (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 4 October 2004). (Bill Samii)
IRAN MISSILE PROGRAM WORRIES U.S. "The United States has had and continues to have serious concerns about Iran's missile program," U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on 5 October according to dpa. "As you know, we view Iran's efforts to further develop its missile capabilities as a threat to the region and to the United States' interests, and all the more so in light of its ongoing nuclear program." Ereli was reacting to an Iranian statement earlier in the day about Iran's missile capabilities.
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani had said, "Today, we have the capability to launch missiles with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers," IRNA reported. Hashemi-Rafsanjani was speaking at a conference on space and national security sponsored by the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics and the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology at the Aerospace Research Institute. He conceded that Iran lags "far behind" industrialized countries in terms of utilizing space, and he explained that Iran became interested in missiles because Iraq used them against Iran in their 1980-88 war. "We thought of building missiles only after we were hit by them. We then started to build them from scratch," he said.
In Moscow, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Stephen Rademaker said on 6 October that sanctions against Russian firms suspected of assisting the Iranian missile program will continue, Interfax reported. Rademaker added that the Russian government denies having knowledge of or consenting with such activities, and Washington believes that Russia is doing all it can to stop such activities.
Nasser Maleki, deputy chief of the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics' Aerospace Industries Organization, said on 6 October that the range of the Shihab-3 missile has been upgraded to 2,000 kilometers, state television and ILNA reported. Maleki added that such improvements are part of a continuous process. "Upgrading of Shihab-3 and other rockets will endlessly continue in Iran's aerospace industries," he said. "Management standards will not remain still and as a leading organization in modern technologies we will always have the upgrading plan on our agenda." (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN 'NOT HAPPY' WITH U.S. PRESIDENT. In an otherwise unremarkable interview published in "The Washington Post" on 4 October, Iranian Foreign Minister Kharrazi refused to be drawn on Tehran's preferred outcome in the U.S. presidential election -- but did express displeasure with the incumbent. Kharrazi said: "We are not happy with President [George W.] Bush. He has adopted wrong policies -- against Iran and the Middle East." Kharrazi went on to say that Muslim countries hate the United States because of current White House policies. (Bill Samii)
U.S. REITERATES THAT IT WILL BLOCK NUCLEAR IRAN. Supreme National Security Council official Hussein Musavian said on 6 October that Iran has converted raw uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas, AP reported. The gas can be enriched in centrifuges and used either as fuel to generate power or in an atomic weapon. "We have converted part of the raw uranium we had and produced a few tons of uranium hexafluoride gas," said Musavian, who is Iran's spokesman at the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The previous day, an anonymous U.S. official said that Washington believes it would be pointless to offer political and economic incentives to Iran to stop possible weapons-related activities, Reuters reported. "At this point a grand bargain is not where we are heading," the official said in Brussels, where U.S., EU, and Canadian officials are discussing Iran. The U.S. official said the United States and Europe need a common approach toward Iran, but expressed bewilderment on how to achieve that. "How do you...elicit from Iran a readiness to engage? I don't know the answer and I don't think the Europeans do either," the anonymous official said.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton, in an interview with "Welt am Sonntag" on 3 October, said that the United States is not currently considering military action against Iran to stop its acquisition of nuclear weapons, but is instead pushing for its referral to the UN Security Council for apparent violations of nuclear nonproliferation rules, Reuters reported the same day. The priority now, he said, is to have Iran on "the agenda of the...Security Council." Iran has denied it is seeking a nuclear bomb, but says it is pursuing a nuclear program that includes fuel production, which could be used for nuclear bombs.
According to Radio Farda, Bolton said Iran should emulate Libya by baring its nuclear program and allowing U.S. and British intelligence services to check its installations. The United States, he added, wants to be sure Iran has no nuclear weapons, and not merely keep it in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, because Iran is not respecting that treaty anyway, Radio Farda reported. "Our position is that we should not exclude any option from the start. Iran must understand that our policy red line is the acquisition of nuclear weapons," Bolton said, according to Reuters.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said in Tehran on 3 October that he does not believe "Iran's case will go to the [UN] Security Council, though we are not worried if it does. The opposite party will be the main loser," IRNA reported the same day. He denounced U.S. claims over Iran as "blackmail," and said a "mistaken approach" by the United States has led the world to ignore its demands. "The Americans see that every day they are more isolated," he said.
Assefi rejected a recent proposal by U.S. presidential candidate Senator John Kerry that Tehran give up its fuel-making capacity in exchange for the West supplying fuel for power stations and recovering spent fuel, Reuters and IRNA reported. "When we have the necessary technology, why would we need to import fuel?" IRNA quoted Assefi as saying. What assurance is there, he asked, "that one day they will not say, 'we are not giving you any more fuel'?" (Vahid Sepehri, Bill Samii)
WORLD EYES IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM. International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Muhammad el-Baradei said in Tokyo on 7 October that his agency's inspectors must verify Iran's claim that it is not developing nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. Progress is being made, el-Baradei said, adding, "We have not completed our job to be able to say that no undeclared activities exist in Iran."
Speaking in Berlin on 7 October, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he is concerned about the Iranian nuclear program and believes it should be added to the North Atlantic Council's agenda, dpa reported. He stressed that he is not calling for military action against Iran, saying, "I'm not implying that NATO...would come to engage in hard power."
In Qom on 7 October, meanwhile, Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told what state television referred to as a "huge gathering of clerics" that Iran must continue its nuclear pursuits as a matter of national prestige. "We are determined to keep the nuclear technology at any cost," he said, "because, any shortcoming in this respect would be considered a historic humiliation for the Iranian nation." He also posed the issue in religio-cultural terms, saying "Today the enemies of Islam are not afraid of any movement as much as they are afraid of Islam." "Islam, as a flourishing school of thought, is standing firm against Western aggression," he added. (Bill Samii)
END NOTERUSSIAN RUMINATIONS ON THE PROSPECT OF A NUCLEAR IRAN
By Mark N. Katz
While some Russian observers maintain stoutly that there is no evidence that Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, others privately indicate that Moscow recognizes this is exactly what Tehran is trying to do. Furthermore, the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin is increasingly concerned about the implications of a nuclear-armed Iran for Russia. Moscow, though, does not see itself as able to stop this from happening. But others may be able to.
During a recent conversation in Moscow, one Russian scholar with close ties to the Kremlin stated that Putin sees himself as being in a dilemma regarding Iran. On the one hand, he does not want to see Tehran acquire nuclear weapons, both because of the threat from Iran this might pose to Russia and because this could encourage proliferation of nuclear weapons to other Middle Eastern countries that have -- or may eventually have -- governments more hostile to Moscow.
On the other hand, the source said, while Putin realizes that the nuclear reactor Russia is building for Iran in Bushehr will help Tehran acquire nuclear weapons, he does not want Russia to stop work on it. To do so would be seen as Moscow backing down to U.S. pressure. Further, those in the Russian nuclear industry and others who want to continue building the reactors are arguing that, if Russia stops work at Bushehr, U.S. or other Western firms might step in to finish the reactor and build others if, say, there is an Iranian-U.S. rapprochement similar to the recent Libyan-U.S. one. The source also said that statements by prominent U.S.-based organizations, such as the independent Council on Foreign Relations, calling for an Iranian-U.S. rapprochement are viewed by the Kremlin as evidence that such a rapprochement might soon occur. According to him, Putin does not understand that such statements have little influence over U.S. foreign policy, and that even if the U.S. president wanted to change course on Iran, getting Congress to lift U.S. sanctions against Tehran would be extremely difficult -- and without such a move, an Iranian-U.S. rapprochement is unlikely.
Another Russian observer, a specialist on nuclear issues, said that Moscow should never have signed the deal with Iran to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor, but since it did so, the Putin administration feels that it must finish the job. But Moscow, he too argued, is increasingly nervous about the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. The best solution to this problem, according to him, would be for what has already been built at Bushehr to be destroyed either by the United States or Israel.
The Putin administration, the observer predicted, would publicly denounce such a move in the strongest terms, but would actually be relieved. For this would both end the Iranian nuclear weapons program and forestall any unwelcome -- from the Russian perspective -- U.S.-Iranian rapprochement. Russia would offer to rebuild Bushehr -- if Iran would pay for it again. Even if Tehran did, this project would take years and years to complete.
When asked about reports that Tehran has hidden, hardened facilities that would enable the Iranian nuclear program to survive even the destruction of Bushehr, the nuclear specialist responded that, while he believes Iran does have other facilities where it is working on nuclear weapons, the spent fuel from the Bushehr reactor would still be needed to fabricate them. Thus, without Bushehr, there can be no Iranian nuclear weapons. Iranian statements that it has hardened facilities elsewhere are apparently intended to convince the United States that an attack on Bushehr would not end the Iranian nuclear program -- even though it actually would.
But it would be better for Moscow, he said, if Bushehr were to be destroyed by Israel and not the United States. A U.S. attack on Iran would whip up anti-American hysteria in Europe and elsewhere that would be difficult for Moscow not to go along with without appearing acquiescent or even complicit in the destruction of Bushehr. An attack on Iran by Israel, by contrast, would allow Moscow to condemn Tel Aviv while maintaining reasonably cooperative relations with Washington.
Such sentiments by observers, of course, do not necessarily reflect a desire on the part of the Putin administration to encourage the destruction of Bushehr. Indeed, when a Russian Foreign Ministry official was asked whether it would better for Moscow if this were undertaken by the United States or by Israel, he pointedly responded, "By neither!" What these statements do reflect, though, is a growing Russian unease about the prospects of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons as well as the sense (whether accurate or not) that Moscow cannot do much to prevent this.
Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University. This piece is based on conversations he had in Moscow in September with several Russian scholars.