9 June 2003, Volume 6, Number 24
U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT DENIES SEEKING REGIME CHANGE IN IRAN. U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith said during a 4 June Pentagon briefing that the U.S. wants Iran to turn over all the Al-Qaeda operatives on its territory and to comply with its Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations, "but as for the future of the Iranian government, that's a matter to be decided by the Iranian people," the American Forces Press Service reported.
Feith said that a recent report in London's "Financial Times" newspaper "grossly misrepresented" U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's views on Iran and the U.S. desire for regime change there. A 30 May report in the British newspaper had stated that Rumsfeld is pushing for regime change while "'neo-conservatives' outside the administration are turning up the volume of their demands for an end to Tehran's theocracy."
Meanwhile, anonymous U.S. defense officials confirmed on 3 June that they met with Mahmudali Chehragani, who heads the Southern Azerbaijan National Awareness Movement, "The Washington Times" reported on 4 June. Chehragani is just one dissident Iranian with whom the United States occasionally speaks, the officials said, but they are not specifically trying to encourage internal opposition or support a change in government. "The role of the U.S. is to communicate to the Iranian people our firm support for their democratic aspirations and human rights, and to let them know their voice is heard," the officials said in a statement.
Chehragani has other ideas, saying in an interview that appeared in the 3 June issue of Baku's "Ekho" daily, "Our aim is to create a democratic, modern, and secular state with a federal system in Iran, in which the highest status of autonomy will be granted to southern Azerbaijan." He continued, "We want Tabriz to become the capital of our autonomy, which will have its own government, parliament, state attributes, and army." Chehragani said his organization is in touch with other Iranian minorities, including Kurds, Baluchis, Turkmen, and Arabs. He acknowledged that there are some problems with the Kurds stemming from conflicting territorial claims to the cities of Urumiyeh, Maku, and Khoi.
Some Iranian minorities welcomed the 1978-79 Islamic revolution and what they hoped would be greater autonomy than they had under the monarchy. What they encountered instead was a system that frowned on anything distinctive to an ethnic minority -- be it language, religion, culture, or even territorial identification.
Recent research on ethnic minorities found that Tehran gives lip service to practical recognition of minority rights and, in reality, state policies advocate unity, encourage acculturation to a common culture, and promote assimilation. The state, Persian nationalism, and Shia Islam are supposed to be the unifying factors, and this unity is imposed through force when necessary. (See A.W. Samii, "The Nation and Its Minorities: Ethnicity, Unity, and State Policy in Iran," Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, [http://www.cssaame.ilstu.edu/issues/v20/samii.pdf]). (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN OFFICIALS DENOUNCE PERCEIVED U.S. INTENTIONS. Although U.S. government officials have denied intending to overthrow Iran's theocratic regime, Iranian officials seem unconvinced. They were especially vocal in their denunciations of the U.S. during the first week of June, as the country commemorated the 1989 death of the "Father of the Revolution," Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Speaking at the Imam Khomeini mausoleum in Tehran on 4 June, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran's young people would resist a foreign military attack, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) and Iranian state radio reported. He claimed that the United States has been threatening Iran since the 1979 revolution. Iranian officials do not want to expose the country and its people to war, he said, but attacking Iran would be suicidal. In recognition of this, Khamenei said, Washington is trying to "terrorize Iranian people and officials by speculating on a military attack or other threats so that they achieve their wishes upon the retreat of [Iranian] officials and their betrayal of the nation." According to IRNA, the slightly less than one million mourners from all over the country replied with "thunderous" chants of "Death to America."
Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani said during a 4 June ceremony at the Imam Khomeini mausoleum that U.S. anger towards Iran is mainly based on the Islamic revolution's negative impact on U.S. regional interests, state radio reported on 5 June. Rafsanjani claimed that public support for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini foiled American plots against Iran. He added: "America is caught in the swamp of Afghanistan and Iraq."
Expediency Council member Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, a former parliament speaker and the heavily favored candidate that Mohammad Khatami defeated in the 1997 presidential election, warned Iranians on 4 June that the United States is seeking to overthrow Iran's Islamic system of government by fomenting instability. He said that the United States would like to engineer popular uprisings to bring down the Iranian regime, IRNA reported. He explained that in its efforts "to sow discord among the masses to materialize its evil [objectives]," the United States is aided by some people within the country who weaken Iran's revolutionary institutions "by the heavy criticisms they direct at them." Among them, he said, are those who claim that there are "unelected, powerful bodies in Iran's system."
Also on 4 June, Mohammad Ali Movahedi-Kermani, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's representative to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), echoed Nateq-Nuri's statements in warning that Iran's "arch-foe" is launching a psychological war by sowing discord, IRNA reported. Some Iranians aid the U.S., he said, by "raising unsubstantiated claims that the religious state is inefficient." His remarks came after the IRGC issued a statement on 2 June that said allegations about human rights violations in Iran and a "propaganda campaign" against Iran's nuclear program "are all aimed to disappoint the Iranian people, but to no avail," IRNA reported. As did Nateq-Nuri, Movahedi-Kermani complained that the United States is promoting the idea of holding a referendum in Iran, presumably on the system of rule, as a way to undermine the system, and that "some political camps in Iran are backing the idea." Movahedi-Kermani said change is not needed, but noted, "Those favoring change should be put away from the system." (Bill Samii, Steve Fairbanks)
FRIDAY PRAYERS CONGREGATION HEARS ALLEGATIONS ABOUT AMERICAN SPIES IN IRAN AND OBJECTIVES IN REGION. Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is one of Iran's most outspoken hard-line clerics, said in a pre-sermon speech at the Tehran Friday Prayers on 6 June, "The enemy has dispatched hundreds of spies to our country in order to bribe a number of Iranian officials," IRNA reported. These alleged spies have $500 million that they will distribute among Iranian officials, he claimed, citing a news agency in Turkmenistan. Mesbah-Yazdi added that some officials already have been bribed. He returned to one of his favorite themes -- insiders versus outsiders -- and said that anybody who has friendly relations with the enemy is an outsider (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 30 August 1999).
Mesbah-Yazdi's claims earned an angry response from the Iranian government. The vice president for legal and parliamentary affairs, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, said on 6 June that the relevant government agencies should ask Mesbah-Yazdi to identify the recipients of this money, ISNA reported. If Mesbah-Yazdi cannot provide names, then "he should be asked not to use the holy platform of Friday Prayers to create anxiety among the public." Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi, furthermore, dismissed the allegation as "a sheer lie," ISNA reported.
Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani gave the sermon in Tehran on 6 June and, according to state radio, he said that America intends to impose American values on the region -- "In other words, to remove Islam." Emami-Kashani said that the Islam of Imam Ali, the first Shia Imam, is the Islam that Jesus Christ would have propagated if he was alive today. "Were Jesus Christ to come back to life if he would mobilize the world's Christians, including American ones, against the White House." Emami-Kashani also accused the U.S. of acting against Iraqis' interests and stealing their oil and resources. (Bill Samii)
IAEA REPORT FAULTS IRAN ON NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS. A much-anticipated report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, distributed to governments on 6 June in advance of a meeting of the agency's board of governors on 16 June, has concluded that Iran has failed to comply with its nuclear safeguards agreement, Reuters reported that day. "Iran has failed to meet its obligations under its safeguards agreement with respect to the reporting of nuclear material, the subsequent processing and use of that material and the declaration of facilities where that material was stored and processed," Reuters quoted one passage of the eight-page IAEA report.
One part of the report said that Iran did not declare until this year that it had imported 1.8 metric tons of natural uranium in 1991, nor did it declare the facilities for handling it, according to Reuters. "Although the quantities of nuclear material involved have not been large...the number of failures by Iran to report the material, facilities and activities in question in a timely manner as it is obliged to do pursuant to its Safeguards Agreement is a matter of concern," the report said.
The IAEA report also revealed Iran is building a previously unacknowledged heavy-water research reactor. That facility could increase Iran's technological options for the production of nuclear weapons, according to "The New York Times" on 7 June. The paper mentioned a 5 May letter that, the report said, "informed the agency for the first time of its intention to construct a heavy water research reactor" and also "informed the agency of its plan to commence construction in 2003 of a fuel manufacturing plant at Isfahan."
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, calling the report "deeply troubling," said on 6 June that "Iran's clandestine nuclear program represents a serious challenge to regional stability, the entire international community and to the global non-proliferation regime," according to the 7 June issue of "The Washington Post." Boucher did not discuss details of the report nor did he predict what actions the IAEA board would take. The White House is pressing the IAEA to issue a formal finding of "noncompliance" for Iran, an act that could trigger sanctions by the Security Council, according to "The Washington Post."
Iran immediately rejected the report's accusations. "We have answers for all the points mentioned," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi on 6 June, Reuters reported. Iran's atomic energy organization spokesman, Seyyed Khalil Musavi, said on 7 June that Iran had fully abided by its obligations and could provide answers to the agency, AFP reported. "This report, like most other reports by the IAEA, shows the transparent interactions between Iran's atomic energy organization and the IAEA. We will also study and evaluate this report and express our official stance in a declaration at the IAEA meeting on June 16 in Vienna," Musavi said. (Steve Fairbanks)
BOLTON TESTIFIES ON IRAN'S CLANDESTINE NUCLEAR PROGRAM. The IAEA report comes on the heels of testimony given on 4 June by Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton to a House of Representatives International Relations Committee hearing examining U.S. nonproliferation policies in the aftermath of the conflict in Iraq. In his testimony, available at http://www.state.gov/t/us/rm/21247.htm, he said Iran is developing "a uranium mine, a uranium conversion facility, a massive uranium enrichment facility designed to house tens of thousands of centrifuges, and a heavy water production plant." He said such a facility would support the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons. "While Iran claims that its nuclear program is peaceful and transparent, we are convinced it is otherwise," Bolton said, adding that "one unmistakable indicator of military intent is the secrecy and lack of transparency surrounding Iran's nuclear activities. (Steve Fairbanks)
G-8 LEADERS URGE IRAN TO COMPLY WITH IAEA PROTOCOL. Leaders of the G-8 attending the organization's summit meeting in Evian, France, on 2 June adopted a statement calling on North Korea and Iran to abandon nuclear-weapons development and sign an accord that would allow stepped-up monitoring of nuclear facilities by international inspectors. "We will not ignore the proliferation implications of Iran's advanced nuclear program," the statement read. "We stress the importance of Iran's full compliance with its obligation under the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty]. We urge Iran to sign and implement an IAEA Additional Protocol without delay or conditions. We offer our strongest support to comprehensive IAEA examination of this country's nuclear program." (Steve Fairbanks)
RUSSIA FAVORS IRAN'S SIGNING OF IAEA PROTOCOL, BUT CONTINUES NUCLEAR COOPERATION. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko said on 5 June that even though Russia is "actively pushing" for Iran to sign the IAEA additional protocol, which would open its nuclear facilities to unscheduled IAEA inspections, Iran's failure to do so would not hinder Russian completion of the Bushehr nuclear-power plant, AP reported. Yakovenko added that Russia's shipment of nuclear fuel to Bushehr would also proceed as planned, though Moscow is still insisting that Iran sign an agreement to ship the spent fuel back to Russia. Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev announced on 2 June that Moscow "has reached an agreement in principle" on Iran's return of all spent nuclear fuel to Russia from the first unit of Iran's nuclear-power plant in Bushehr, ITAR-TASS reported.
Iran's ambassador to Moscow, Gholamreza Shafei, said on 5 June that the agreement on spent fuel had been drafted and Tehran was ready to sign, Reuters reported. But an unnamed Russian Nuclear Power Ministry official on the same day said that fuel would only be delivered six months before the power generating unit is put into operation, which he said would not be until 2005, Interfax reported. Russia is now blaming the delayed startup on the need to replace outdated equipment installed by the project's previous construction company, Siemens, according to Interfax.
Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated on 3 June that Russia would continue with its construction of Iran's nuclear-power plant at Bushehr, Reuters and several Russian news sources reported. "Iran is our neighbor. We have been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with [Iran]," Putin said at a briefing in Evian, France, after the G-8 summit, Interfax reported. His reported remarks contradicted earlier reports that cited an anonymous, high-ranking British official as saying that Putin told G-8 leaders on 2 June that Russia has frozen the Bushehr project.
Putin expressed concern that unidentified rivals might take over at Bushehr. "We are categorically against the dredging up of problems that could be used in the name of unscrupulous competition, including on the Iranian market," he said. Putin added that Russia would insist on IAEA supervision of Iran's nuclear program, though he was not reported to have specified that Russia will require Iran to sign the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would require Iran to submit to surprise inspections by the IAEA.
In Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi on 2 June reiterated Tehran's preconditions for joining the Additional Protocol, asking Western countries to lift their sanctions against Iran's nuclear programs, IRNA reported. (Steve Fairbanks)
BUSHEHR REACTOR NEARLY DONE, BUT RUSSIA WOULD INCUR 'ENORMOUS LOSSES' IF PROJECT IS STOPPED. Mr. Ghaffurian, head of Iran's Nuclear Research Center, said in the 1 June issue of "Kayhan" newspaper that 80 percent of the "operational work" on the nuclear reactor at Bushehr is complete, and IAEA regulations have been observed in the project. Ghaffurian said that the light-water reactors that will be used at Bushehr for electricity production are "extremely safe." The Bushehr facility initially would produce 1,200 megawatts of electricity and this eventually would increase to 6,000 megawatts, according to Ghaffurian.
If Moscow were to suspend work on the Bushehr nuclear-power station, the Russian nuclear industry would incur "enormous losses," gazeta.ru reported on 3 June. The state budget would lose around $500 million a year if the project was not completed, according to the report. Some 600 Russian specialists currently working in Bushehr along with "several hundred" more expected by the end of this year would lose their jobs. In addition, numerous subcontracting companies, such as one in St. Petersburg that is producing a turbine for $38 million, would incur losses, according to the website. (Bill Samii, Steve Fairbanks)
KHATAMI WANTS TO AVOID EXPEDIENCY COUNCIL IN LEGISLATIVE DISPUTE. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami has encouraged a compromise between the parliament and the Guardians Council on two key bills in order to avoid intervention by the Expediency Council, which adjudicates in such cases, Iranian state television and IRNA reported on 1 June. Khatami, in a recent letter to parliament speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, urged compromise on bills concerning presidential powers and elections.
The Guardians Council had rejected the bill on presidential powers on 9 May, and Khatami said in his letter that the differences are minor and can be overcome. Khatami's letter went on to say that the election regulations should respect the Guardians Council's powers to supervise elections while simultaneously guaranteeing the rights of voters and candidates for office.
Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said during the Council's 7 June meeting that he appreciated Khatami's letter, state radio reported. Jannati expressed the hope that the legislators would eliminate the problems discovered by the council, so when it reviews the legislation again it will not have to find it incompatible with Islam and the constitution.
Iranian government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said during a 31 May press conference in Shiraz that the bills on presidential powers and elections would contribute to public activism in all aspects of national life and enhance the system's legitimacy, IRNA reported on 1 June. Ramezanzadeh said some would oppose the bills: "There are, no doubt, certain individuals that cannot be convinced to yield to the real will and vote of the nation, and those are the same people who try their best today to prove that the nation's representatives [elected officials] are ineffective." Ramezanzadeh also warned that public participation in the political process will turn to apathy if people believe their votes are irrelevant: "Naturally, if the people find out that their votes are not going to have any significant effect, the level of their cooperation will decrease drastically."
Khatami's desire to circumvent the Expediency Council seems to reflect a struggle for political power between the executive branch, which he heads, and the Expediency Council, of which Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani is chairman. Members of parliament, furthermore, frequently complain about the Expediency Council's involvement in the legislative process. (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN STUDENT GROUP REFUSED RALLY PERMIT. The "Toseh" daily newspaper reported on 3 June that the Iranian government has refused to issue permission for a rally to the country's main politically active student group. The rally was scheduled for 9 July -- the anniversary of the 1999 attack on a Tehran University dormitory by security personnel and hard-line vigilantes.
Abdullah Momeni, secretary of the majority Allameh wing of the Office for Strengthening Unity, said that exams end on 1 July and that because the summer holiday will have begun the rally must be held off-campus. Momeni said citizens are constitutionally entitled to hold rallies, and that by refusing to issue the permit the government is depriving them of the right to condemn the 1999 attack.
The "Aftab-i Yazd" daily reported on 29 May that Iranian universities have witnessed several violent incidents in recent weeks. It cited events in Isfahan, Hamedan, and Tehran that were organized by the Office for Strengthening Unity and disrupted by rival conservative student groups (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 19 and 26 May 2003). (Bill Samii)
AL-QAEDA REPORTEDLY EXPELLED FROM IRAN. An anonymous "Iranian source very close to the [Islamic] Revolution Guards [Corps, IRGC] command" claims that Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu-Ghayth recently left Iran through the area where the borders of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan meet, London-based Iranian journalist Alireza Nurizadeh wrote in the 5 June "Al-Sharq al-Awsat."
The decision to expel Abu-Ghayth and other terrorists who are being sheltered by the IRGC in Tehran, Qom, and elsewhere was made at a Supreme National Security Council meeting last week. President Mohammad Khatami reportedly objected to the adverse impact on Tehran's relations with Riyadh, Cairo, Manama, and Kuwait City, and he wanted to extradite the terrorists to their countries of origin. He was forced to accept a compromise, however, to only expel them from Iran.
Iranian security forces recently deported 190 Pakistanis who had entered the country illegally en route for Europe, where they hoped to find employment, Islamabad's daily "The News" reported on 3 June. Pakistani Federal Investigation Agency Deputy Director Akbar Baluch said the immigrants crossed the Pakistan-Iran border from the Mand and Taftan areas of Baluchistan. One of the deportees said he and his companions contacted agents in Karachi who arranged for their transport to Mand, and in Mand each one of them paid 10,000 rupees (about $180) to an agent who "helped us cross over the border into Iran via unfrequented routes." The Pakistanis were arrested when they reached the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas.
These two reports, if accurate, indicate the ease with which Al-Qaeda personnel could slip into Iran and corroborate U.S. statements about Iranian assistance to Al-Qaeda personnel. (Bill Samii)
IRANIAN OFFICIALS MEET WITH PALESTINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER. Palestinian Foreign Minister Faruq Qaddumi had separate meetings on 31 May with Iranian Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and parliament speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, IRNA reported on 1 June. Rafsanjani called for greater unity among Palestinian groups in light of the "sensitive" regional situation and in order to "defeat the plots of the oppressors." He also said that "psychological warfare" is being waged against Islamic countries. "The continued brutalities against Palestinians in the occupied lands is indicative of the Zionist determination to defy any peace agreement," Rafsanjani added.
Karrubi, meanwhile, stressed that Iran will continue to support the Palestinian uprising (Intifada), and he explained, "The Palestinian issue was an underlying theme of the Islamic revolution." Qaddumi informed the Iranians about the "road map" for a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an interview that appeared in the 30 May issue of London's daily "Al-Arab al-Alamiyah," Qaddumi expressed concern that another Islamic country could be exposed to "what Iraq suffered." He said Iran is worried because its newest neighbor is the U.S. Army, and "Iran needs the solidarity of the Islamic countries to support it so that it will not be exposed to what Iraq suffered." Qaddumi rejected the suggestion that Tehran wants to see a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad. "Iran is interested in Iraq being free, independent, under independent Iraqi leadership, and to some extent away from U.S. influence," he said. (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN MAINTAINS SKEPTICISM ABOUT IRAQI AFFAIRS. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on 31 May called on the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to encourage Islamic countries "to resist U.S. plots and Zionism," IRNA reported. Khamenei made his remarks to OIC Secretary-General Abdelouahed Belkeziz following the three-day meeting of OIC foreign ministers that ended in Tehran on 30 May. He did not actually address the OIC gathering itself. "The United States has imposed an American ruler on Iraq and this calls for Islamic countries to set aside their discrepancies and take a peculiar stance toward the U.S. move," IRNA quoted him as saying. Belkeziz's response to the leader's remarks was noncommittal.
In an undated interview published in Germany's "Der Spiegel" on 2 June, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi criticized the U.S. occupation of Iraq but rejected the likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iran. Since U.S. intervention in Iraq was not approved by the United Nations, which he said must take over a "central role," the Americans are "occupiers who have no business in Iraq." He denied that Iran is pushing for an Islamic republic in Iraq based on the "Iranian model." That possibility, he said, "Just exists in the imagination of some Americans." He said U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's warning to Iran against interfering in Iraq reflects the "ignorance of the Americans." He explained that Washington is "looking for a culprit" because U.S. officials "see that things are not going the way they wanted." However, he said, Iran is not worried about being the next victim of a military strike. This is because "we are not a dictatorship but a democracy and, in addition, we do not violate any international laws." (Steve Fairbanks)
IRANIAN-BACKED IRAQI SHIA PARTY SENDS MIXED SIGNALS. Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) representative Hamid al-Bayati said in a 2 June interview with Al-Jazeera satellite television that the seven-member Leadership Committee of Iraqi political groups intends to proceed with its plan to form an Iraqi administration, "regardless of what the United States decides."
The Leadership Committee, which is made up of SCIRI, the Iraqi National Congress, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, the Popular Union of Kurdistan, the Iraqi National Accord, the Movement for Constitutional Monarchy, and Adnan Pachachi's Independent Iraqis for Democracy, had met that day with U.S. Administrator L. Paul Bremer and British envoy John Sawers and, according to al-Bayati, Bremer opposed convening an Iraqi national conference because it would be too difficult. Bremer's plan is to appoint an interim council of up to 30 Iraqis that would advise U.S. officials on policy and personnel choices. INC spokesman Entifadh Qanbar also expressed skepticism about the U.S. plan, "The Washington Post" reported on 3 June.
Al-Bayati also described changes in SCIRI, saying that party chairman Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim had announced that SCIRI's militia, the Badr Brigades, would be transformed into the Badr Institution for Building and Reconstruction. Bayati noted, "we do not need armed struggle after the fall of this regime." Al-Bayati makes this sound like a voluntary process, but reports from other sources indicate that the militia is being forced to disarm and that it is engaged in military activities against coalition forces.
The Kurdish newspaper "Hawlati" reported on 28 May that U.S. forces were disarming and detaining Badr Brigade personnel in the area of Baqubah, northeast of Baghdad. SCIRI's Iran-based radio station, the Voice of the Mujahedin, reported on 3 June that U.S. forces raided SCIRI offices in Tal Afar, near Mosul, seized "the contents" of the building, and made some arrests.
Citing an unidentified U.S. spokesman from the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division, the "Financial Times" reported on 6 June that 20 members of the Badr Brigade were detained on 21 May. The individuals were linked to "planning, supporting, financing and executing at least one RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] attack on U.S. forces, and are suspected in several others." SCIRI spokesman Hamid al-Bayati, however, said that the accusations are "completely false" and added that he has not received any information from the U.S. Army about the case.
Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim complained in an interview that appeared in the 7 June issue of "Der Spiegel" magazine that the American disarmament policy is biased. He noted that Kurdish units and even former Ba'athists are allowed to keep their weapons while the Shia militia is not. In his words: "the USA is partial. The Badr Corps is an integral component of the Iraqi people. In the opinion of many Iraqis, Washington's decision is clearly an aggressive act against the Shia majority in the country."
Meanwhile, British envoy to Baghdad John Sawers said on 3 June that Tehran is still providing support to Iraqi Shia groups, "The Guardian" reported on 4 June. "We have seen signs of and attempts to exercise undue and unwelcome influence in support of fundamentalist groupings," Sawers said. He added that Tehran continues to aid the Badr Brigades. Sawers pointed out that cross-border traffic is difficult to track, "But it's clearly not done with purely humanitarian intent." Iran used humanitarian and cultural activities as cover for subversion and covert action in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s and Afghanistan more recently.
As SCIRI appears to be having some difficulties, Iraq's oldest Shia political organization, Al-Da'wah al-Islamiyya, appears to be making a comeback. Unable to work in Iraq under Saddam Hussein's regime, Da'wah now is establishing offices around the country and recruiting new members so it can participate in elections and be part of the country's new administration. Furthermore, Da'wah's Baghdad representative, Abdul al-Anizi, said, "We want to have good relations with the Americans," "The Chicago Tribune" reported on 3 June. (Bill Samii)
MUQTADA AL-SADR IN TEHRAN, FOLLOWERS RALLY IN Al-BASRAH. Some 2,000 Iraqi Shia staged a rally in front of the British military headquarters in Al-Basrah, AFP reported. They chanted, "Leave peacefully lest we expel you through our jihad," and they handed British officers a petition demanding that the British withdraw to the outskirts of the city. The demonstration was called by the Sadriyun, an organization currently headed by Hojatoleslam Muqtada al-Sadr, the son of the murdered Ayatollah Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr. Muqtada al-Sadr, meanwhile, is in Tehran to participate in events commemorating the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Al-Sadr met with Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who said, "If the Americans want to put in power a puppet government that acts contrary to the interests of the people, then they will certainly face many problems," IRNA reported on 8 June. The Iranian news agency referred to al-Sadr as the envoy of Ayatollah Kazem Haeri-Shirazi. (Bill Samii)