17 December 2001, Volume 4, Number 47
NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "RFE/RL Iran Report" will appear on 31 December 2001.
TEHRAN WELCOMES AFGHAN ACCORDS AND INTERIM CHIEF. Afghanistan's interim administration chief, Hamid Karzai, expressed his hope that Iran would "help the establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the improvement of economic conditions for the people of Afghanistan" in a 13 December interview with Iranian state television. Tehran welcomed the 4 December selection of Karzai as the head of the interim administration in Afghanistan, and Karzai discussed the expansion of Iran-Afghanistan cooperation in a 9 December telephone conversation with Iranian envoy to Afghanistan Ebrahim Taherian, according to Mashhad radio. It is not yet clear how wholehearted Iranian support for Karzai is, but resistance to him is more likely to be homegrown.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif feigned surprise at the choice of Karzai, adding that he expected the Northern Alliance to oppose that choice. Indeed, as late as 3 December it seemed that Sattar Sirat, who has served as an adviser to Mohammad Zahir Shah and was favored by the Rome group, would be named to the top spot. Both Tehran and Islamabad were opposed to the monarchists, and UN sources told dpa that Karzai was "the candidate of the international community." Moreover, 16 out of the approximately 30 cabinet seats in the administration are reserved for the Northern Alliance, and they have the key ministerial posts of defense, foreign affairs, and the interior.
This combination of international and domestic factors may explain the acceptance of Karzai. Karzai has his job for just six months, furthermore. At that point, according to the Bonn agreement, a Loya Jirga would be held to prepare a constitution and establish a transitional government that eventually would hold general elections. Zahir Shah would preside over the Loya Jirga, and according to a 13 December report in "Iran News," there is speculation that his grandson, Mustafa Zahir, is being groomed to take the reins of power.
Tehran is unlikely as a source of resistance to Karzai or the accords. U.S. State Department official Richard Haass told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 6 December that Tehran and Washington do not see eye-to-eye on all issues, but Iran played a "constructive" diplomatic role in the Bonn talks. Haass added, "They have a lot of influence with the Northern Alliance, and to the best of our knowledge, they have used that influence constructively in trying to bring about the sort of compromise that we saw at Bonn."
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi expounded on Tehran's role in an interview broadcast by Tehran television on 7 December. He said that Tehran's model on how to form an Afghan government had been used, and Tehran served as a "mediator" whenever the talks reached a standstill. Kharrazi also said that Tehran is trying to resolve the strains in relations between "certain Afghan groups" and Islamabad.
Some Afghan leaders are less than enthusiastic about Karzai or about the peace accords, and they could cause problems in the future. President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who has no position in the interim administration, disapproved of the talks in Germany before they started. He has continued to agitate against the agreement, according to "The Washington Post" on 16 December, and warned against the secularization of Afghanistan. Rabbani's men are using money from Iran to buy off Pashtun elders in eastern Afghanistan so they will oppose both Karzai and the future return of Zahir Shah, according to "intelligence sources in Islamabad" cited by the 17 December "Time" magazine. (Pakistani intelligence sources may have said this to discredit Rabbani and Iran.) UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, however, said at an 11 December press conference that he does not think Rabbani would block the accords' implementation -- "he also committed himself in no uncertain terms to cooperation with and support of the [Bonn] process."
Resistance to the accords also came from ethnic Uzbek commander General Abdul Rashid Dostum. Immediately after they were signed he described them as saddening. A few days later he said, "The agreement on power-sharing signed in Germany is not altogether to my liking. However, there is no need for conflict after the event. At the moment, it is impossible to share power by force," Mashhad radio reported on 9 December. Dostum rejected rumors that he would resume fighting, but his credibility is questionable in light of his combative history. He fought on the side of Afghanistan's communist government, then joined with Rabbani's government, then fought against it. He later fought against the Taliban.
Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani, who heads the predominantly Pashtun Peshawar group, said that the ethnic makeup of the current administration closely resembles that which existed during Rabbani's 1992-96 presidency. He was diplomatic in voicing his objections: "It is a good thing that the UN has taken practical steps towards the solution of the Afghan crisis, although the new setup is not so balanced."
Former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is another person who is not happy about the current set-up. Representatives of the Cyprus Process, with which he is associated, participated in the peace talks, but he said that no "dignified Jihadi leader" was there because the U.S. nominated all the participants, IRNA reported on 1 December. Ayatollah Muhammad Assef Muhseni, the Shia leader of the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (Harakat-i Islami-yi Afghanistan), reportedly wants more cabinet positions for his minority group. Professor Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf objects to the role of the former king in opening the Loya Jirga.
At this point it seems, therefore, that Afghanistan's future is in the hands of the Afghans themselves. Should they cooperate in implementing the Bonn agreement, the international community's effort to help them would be successful. (Bill Samii)
TEHRAN UNENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT FOREIGN TROOPS. A 12-member British team was scheduled to arrive in Kabul on the weekend of 15-16 December to assess the personnel requirements for a multinational peacekeeping force, but the UN resolution authorizing the troop deployment probably will not be ready until later in the week, according to AP. Tehran is reluctant to see foreign forces in Afghanistan. Greater resistance may come from the Afghans themselves, and this will worsen the already difficult humanitarian situation there.
The establishment of security is essential if the World Food Program's plan to ship food into western Afghanistan is to succeed. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Oliver Ulich told RFE/RL that supply routes from Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are limited, and humanitarian officials' biggest concern is the area around Mazar-i-Sharif, where there is rampant looting, thievery, and kidnapping. Moreover, infighting between Northern Alliance units and roaming bands of Taliban has further disrupted aid efforts. Because of these problems, Ulich said, more than 3 million people are not getting the assistance they need.
The initial force is expected to include troops from Canada, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Turkey, and the U.K. Soldiers from Bangladesh and Jordan are expected, too. American and British special operations forces have been active in Afghanistan at least since September, and a detachment from the British Royal Marines' Special Boat Squadron arrived at Bagram air base in mid-November. Troops from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), and the U.S. Marine Corps are active in Afghanistan, too.
"If they [the Americans, British, and Westerners] are seeking to enjoy a long-term military presence in Afghanistan," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on 7 December, "then they should be certain that they will have to face the people of Afghanistan." He added, "We will not in any way condone or tolerate the intervention of hegemonistic, expansionist, and aggressive powers in Afghanistan." Nevertheless, Iranian state radio on 15 November said that the UN should send international peacekeepers "as soon as possible to establish security."
The "Agreement on provisional arrangements in Afghanistan pending the reestablishment of permanent government institutions" that was signed in Germany by the various Afghan factions on 5 December also calls for a UN-mandated force. This force would help maintain security in Kabul and its surroundings, and it could be expanded to other urban centers. The participants in the late November-early December talks also agreed to withdraw their military forces from Kabul and other urban centers where the UN force is.
UN special representative Lakhdar Brahimi said that he has the Northern Alliance's "firm support" for a UN mission and security force to be based in Kabul, according to "The Washington Post" on 12 December. In spite of this optimistic statement and in contradiction to the 5 December agreement, actual support seems limited. Defense Minister General Mohammad Fahim said the force should include no more than 1,000 men, and it should just guard government installations and meetings. He also said that his forces might not actually withdraw from Kabul.
Ambassador Mohammad Khairkhah, the Afghan envoy to Tehran, said in the 9 December "Iran Daily" that "there is no justification for the presence of American forces or its allies [sic] in Afghanistan now because the war on terrorism is nearing the end." Ismail Khan, the commander who is now in charge of Herat, also is reluctant to see more foreign forces in Afghanistan. "I do not see any justification for the presence of U.S. or foreign forces in Afghanistan, especially since the Afghans have proved that they have enough ability to manage the affairs of their own country," he said on Al-Jazirah television on 1 December. And when British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met with his Afghan counterpart, Abdullah Abdullah, he failed to get an agreement on the deployment of British forces, IRNA reported on 22 November. (Bill Samii)
...BUT KEEN ON AFGHAN RECONSTRUCTION. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said in a 7 December interview with state television that during his recent trip to Islamabad he proposed the formation of a joint committee to contribute to Afghanistan's reconstruction. Kharrazi said that reconstruction would be an important contribution to long-term stability there. Kharrazi also stressed the need for international cooperation in reconstruction during 12 December meetings with Chinese Foreign Ministry special envoy Wang Shi Jie and German Deputy Foreign Minister Jurgen Chrobog, and on 2 December with his visiting Dutch counterpart, Jozias van Aartsen. Moreover, the Iranian Foreign Ministry's Institute for Political and International Studies will hold a conference on Afghanistan's reconstruction and development on 6 January, "Noruz" reported on 9 December.
The UN Development Program is to present its Afghan reconstruction plan at a 20 January international donors conference in Tokyo. The reconstruction could cost between $6.5 billion and $25 billion, "The Washington Post" reported on 10 December. Most of the money will be needed a few years from now, when work on the major infrastructure must commence. That quick fixes must be avoided and the future must be viewed through Afghan eyes were just some of the relevant suggestions in the concluding remarks of a 27-29 November conference in Islamabad.
Other requirements for sustainable development and successful reconstruction identified at this conference are the creation of sound economic institutions and good economic policy. A "bloated federal bureaucracy" should be avoided, as should "overly complex and competing aid management and funding arrangements." There must be security (de-mining is important), agriculture will be important, existing institutions should be built on, and conditions must foster the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Based on the "Reconstruction Era" after the Iran-Iraq War, Iran has valuable experience in rebuilding a country devastated by a lengthy conflict, and it can contribute to Afghanistan's future. Valuable petroleum resources and borrowing power helped fund Iran's reconstruction. Afghanistan is not similarly endowed, but University of Nebraska geology professor John F. Shroder, Jr., writes in "The Christian Science Monitor" of 14 December that Afghanistan has what may be the world's largest copper deposit and the third-largest deposit of high-grade iron ore, as well as gas, oil, coal, and gems. It may be a while before these resources can be exploited, so unless Kabul gets powerful foreign backing, it is unlikely to match Tehran's success in international borrowing. If Kabul does get the necessary international aid, Afghanistan's reconstruction era could be a boon for Iranian businesses. (Bill Samii)
AFGHAN PIPELINE ROUTE WORRIES IRAN. Iran often is mentioned as the most economically viable and politically stable route for a pipeline transporting Central Asian energy resources to international markets. The Trans-Caspian Pipeline is expensive and there is concern (mostly generated in Tehran) about its potential environmental impact. Moreover, instability in Afghanistan, as well as the Taliban's support for terrorism and its unacceptable stand on women's rights, made that country an unlikely route for a pipeline. The ouster of the Taliban has revived speculation that Afghanistan could be a new pipeline route, and this could be at Iran's expense.
Even before the conflict with Afghanistan began in October, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that the U.S. is trying to establish itself in Central Asia (see "RFE/RL Iran Report, 1 October 2001). On 30 November Islamic Revolution Guards Corps deputy commander Brigadier General Mohammad Zolqadr said specifically that the U.S. aim is to have "influence on Central Asia and access to fuel resources ands geopolitical conditions in the region," IRNA reported. A report in the 13 December issue of the English-language "Iran News" said that Iran "should be concerned" about the pipelines. According to the daily, Islamabad backed the Taliban because it hoped they would provide stability and security, and this would give Pakistan access to Central Asian gas resources. "[T]here are genuine concerns in Tehran that the mission, which the Taliban was unable to fulfill -- the new government in Afghanistan might, thereby once again snatching it away from Iran."
Tehran's concerns could be based on American company Unocal's efforts, from 1995-98, to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. Despite the company's hiring of influential American consultants and its cultivation of officials from Pakistan, the Taliban, and Turkmenistan, the project fell apart because of the Afghan regime's links with terrorism. Moreover, women's groups in the U.S. mounted a vociferous campaign against the project, according to Ahmed Rashid's "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia" (2000).
After the Afghan route disappeared as an option, the main opposition to an Iranian route came from the U.S. Tehran did not give up, however, and in the spring of 2000, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan discussed a new pipeline project in which Turkmen gas would be transported to Pakistan via a pipeline passing through Iran. Washington has not given up its opposition, either. Steven Mann, an adviser to the U.S. president and secretary of state for Caspian energy diplomacy, said on 20 October that Washington remains opposed to the export of Turkmen gas and oil via Iran.
Nor is Turkmenistan the most reliable partner for Iran -- in late October President Saparmurat Niyazov sent a letter to the UN advocating a pipeline that would bring Turkmen gas across Afghanistan to Pakistan's Arabian Sea ports. And in late November, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev said, "We are interested in Afghanistan as a transit country for us," according to Kazakhstan Today news service.
Nevertheless, Tehran's worries may be groundless. It will be a while before Afghanistan is stable and secure enough for building a pipeline. Moreover, Unocal spokeswoman Terry Covington told RFE/RL that the company is not interested in Afghanistan anymore and has committed its resources elsewhere; nor does she know of any other U.S. company that is considering a pipeline investment in Afghanistan.
What may be the most reassuring development for Tehran was the announcement, after Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi visited Islamabad in late November, of a committee that would plan for the pipeline from Iran to Pakistan and maybe India. Tehran and Islamabad have been in long-running discussions about a gas pipeline from Iran's South Pars fields to Multan that might be extended to Hazipur-Bijapur-Jagdishpur in northern India. The "Oil and Gas Journal" reported on 13 December that Tehran has selected Australian consultant BHP Kinhill and Italy's Snamprogetti SPA to carry out a feasibility study for the proposed gas pipeline, and the study should be ready by March 2002. (Bill Samii)
WILL TALIBAN COLLAPSE AFFECT IRAN'S WAR ON DRUGS? The new leaders of Afghanistan have promised to end opium cultivation, but there is little reason to expect results in the near future, mainly because residents of the war-ravaged country have no other realistic options and possibly because the country's new leaders are reluctant to forego such a profitable business. Tehran's efforts to protect its population from this onslaught of narcotics are continuing in three ways.
The UN Drug Control Program's "Annual Opium Poppy Survey 2001" on Afghanistan, which was released in late October, noted that overall production had fallen mostly due to the Taliban's ban on cultivation (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 29 October 2001). Before the Taliban collapsed, however, it gave Afghan farmers permission to resume the cultivation of opium poppies (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 October 2001).
On one hand, Northern Alliance Interior Minister Yunis Qanuni promised that opium production and sales would be eliminated, the 26 November edition of "The Guardian" reported. Sohrab Qadri of the law and order ministry, on the other hand, told "The New York Times" of 26 November that "the top authorities have not yet decided whether to let the farmers continue cultivating poppies." Yet some of the warlords who seized control after ousting the Taliban have a discouraging record. Hazrat Ali, who now is installed in Nangarhar, ran Jalalabad airport in the mid-1990s "when weekly flights to India and the Gulf carried huge amounts of opium to Western markets," the 25 November edition of "The Observer" reported. And a farmer near Jalalabad told "The Observer" that he expects the province's new rulers to collect taxes on his poppies.
These signs are discouraging, yet they are based on anecdotal evidence. More quantitative and expert evidence is not very encouraging either. The UN report on opium notes that although overall Afghan opium production decreased in 2001, it actually increased in areas controlled by the Northern Alliance. "Indeed, if anything the Northern Alliance has been more closely associated with narcotics than the Taliban," Mark Galeotti, director of the Organized Russian and Eurasian Crime Research Unit at Keele University, wrote in the 2 December edition of "The Observer."
Articles in the Western press note that opium farmers already were replanting their crops. Some are doing so reluctantly, but they believe that they have no alternatives because opium is much more profitable than other crops, and it also requires much less water than wheat or corn. Other farmers indicate that opium cultivation is part of their culture.
Opium stockpiles in Afghanistan were such that UN-affiliated officials believed it could be one to three years before the Taliban's original ban would have a noticeable impact (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 12 March and 28 May 2001). According to a 21 November report in "Time" magazine, Taliban commanders bought up opium when it was cheap ($30/kilogram), and once the ban went into effect and prices rose ($700/kilogram by 11 September), they began selling off their stockpiles gradually. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda began dumping their stockpiles after the bombing of Afghanistan began on 7 October, European and international counter-narcotics officials said in "The Wall Street Journal" international edition of 14 November.
Indeed, drug seizures and related arrests had continued in Iran during November and December, according to reports published by IRNA. On 24 November, opium, hashish, and heroin were seized in Ahvaz and Mahshahr, Khuzestan Province, and opium and heroin were seized in Yazd and Shahr-i Rey. Five days earlier, 34 kilograms of opium was seized in Shemiranat, and the dealers' cars were seized. There also were seizures in Fars Province, in Qom Province, in Gulistan Province, in Kerman Province, in Ardabil Province, and throughout Khorasan Province.
According to the Iranian government, 3,100 security officials have been killed fighting drug smugglers, prisons are filling up with people arrested for drug offenses, the rate of HIV/AIDS contracted through intravenous drug use is climbing, and 1.2 million Iranians are addicted to drugs. The amount of violent crime in the provinces bordering Afghanistan is alarming, too. Tehran's current approach to dealing with these problems focuses on relations with Afghanistan's new leadership, traditional security activities, and international contacts.
Iran hopes that the new Afghan government will take an active approach to eliminating opium production. A commentary in the 15 November "Noruz" suggested that officials in the Afghan provinces bordering Iran must commit to cooperating in the fight against narcotics or "be deprived of the benefits of border cooperation,... particularly during the era of reconstruction of Afghanistan."
Khorasan Province Deputy Governor-General Hussein Zare-Sefat said on 1 December that security along the eastern border is at a favorable level since the Northern Alliance took control of neighboring Herat Province, according to IRNA. Security improvements in Afghanistan and along the border are having a positive impact on Khorasan Province, too, he said, and drug smuggling has dropped. Zare-Sefat singled out for praise Ismail Khan, the commander who is now in charge of Herat. According to a former U.S. intelligence official cited in "The New Yorker" on 2 December, Ismail Khan was a covert asset of Iran's intelligence services. This would suggest that he still has a special relationship with Tehran.
The Iranian government also is continuing its emphasis on more straightforward interdiction efforts. Police chief Brigadier General Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf on 11 December called for deploying a special antidrug regiment that would cover the area from the Caspian Sea to the Gulf of Oman. By mid-2002 this new organization would be deployed along the border with Turkmenistan. So far, the borders are guarded by the police, army, and Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and the residents of over 1,000 villages have been armed and turned into Basij units. In mid-September, furthermore, Tehran announced that it would deploy more security forces along the eastern border in order to intercept Afghan refugees.
Tehran has consistently tried to emphasize the international and multilateral aspect of its counter-narcotics efforts. This was indicated when Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said on 14 November, during his trip to Islamabad, "We see Pakistan's problems and security as our own security and we are pleased that the two countries officials have a very serious resolve to combat drug smuggling." The two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding that dealt with drugs and other security-related issues the next day. The Third International Conference of Anti-Narcotics Officers was held on Kish Island on 13-14 November, according to IRNA, with participants from Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates. In mid-November, Oman and Iran agreed on a draft memorandum of understanding to combat drug trafficking, the "Gulf News" reported. (Bill Samii)
LONDON IRKS TEHRAN. London has been courting Tehran diplomatically recently, most noticeably with the visits to Tehran of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in September and November and Minister Mo Mowlam in February-March. Yet Tehran remains hyper-sensitive to any perceived slights by the British.
During the 5 December question and answer session in Great Britain's House of Commons, Liverpool representative Louise Ellman asked Prime Minister Tony Blair to "review this country's relationship with Iran, following its continued material and financial support for Hamas, which carried out the mass murder of so many Israelis on Saturday and Sunday in Jerusalem and Haifa." She went on to ask, "Does he consider that having good relations with a terrorist state is an objective with which the government should not be associated?"
Blair responded that England and Iran should engage in a "dialogue," but the dialogue should be based on "one clear understanding -- that, in the end, there can be no new relationship with countries which, for a variety of reasons, have had a very poor relationship with the Western world over the past few years." He added, "We want matters to improve, but there can be no new relationship with those countries except on the basis that they cease supporting activities of terrorism."
That is the wrong answer, as far as Tehran is concerned. The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the British charge d'affaires on 7 December, Tehran radio reported, to protest against Blair's "irresponsible remarks." Foreign Ministry Managing Director for Western European Affairs Khareqani said that Iran's stance on terrorism is clear and Iran is "one of the main victims of terrorism." Khareqani added, "[T]he British government would do better to stop supporting the terrorist Zionist regime."
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei did not mention Blair or his comments specifically, but during his 7 December sermon he denigrated Great Britain more than usual. He said that London "plays the role of a road-sweeper and political broker for America." He added, "The American and British governments are partners in these crimes and jointly responsible for these crimes [against the Afghans and the Palestinians], because they are supporting it."
Two parliamentarians discussed Blair's comments in the 9 December "Entekhab," a moderately conservative daily. Kermanshah's Abbas Ali Allahyari, who is a member of the Iran-England parliamentary friendship group, accused Blair of trying to overshadow and downplay the upcoming Qods Day (Jerusalem Day, 14 December) rallies. He also said that Israel's allies have targeted Iran because "it is the first and most important supporter of the innocent people of Palestine in the Islamic world." Allahyari said that the Iranian foreign policy apparatus should explain the country's "transparent position in condemning terrorism." Robat-Karim's Hassan Qashqavi, who serves on the national security and foreign affairs committee, explained Blair's comments by saying that he was responding to a Jew, and "any time Western officials encounter Zionists, they think that they have no choice but to surrender and bow to them."
The Tehran press also did not care for Blair's comments. The English-language "Iran Daily," which is published by the pro-Khatami Islamic Republic News Agency, said on 11 December that Iran has been "the victim of terrorism for more than two decades." The "Iran Daily" editorial also criticized London for having "overlooked the murder of Palestinians by Israelis." The ultra-conservative "Jomhuri-yi Islami" on 8 December took a harder line. It said Iranians have no reason to trust the British, and it criticized the U.K. for backing author Salman Rushdie and using him as a weapon in an anti-Muslim onslaught. British colonialism was criticized, too, and the U.K. was accused of directing and commanding terrorist networks in Saudi Arabia. For these reasons, "it is not appropriate for the governments whose hands are stained right up to their shoulders with the foulest of terrorist incidents to accuse others of supporting terrorism." (Bill Samii)
ANNUAL ANTI-ISRAEL EVENT WELL-ATTENDED. "You should make the world understand that Israel is the oppressor and that Israel must be destroyed," Ayatollah Ali Meshkini said during the nationally televised 8 December Friday Prayers in Qom. Meshkini was encouraging his congregation to participate in the Qods Day (Jerusalem Day) rallies that are held on the last Friday of Ramadan, which this year fell on 14 December. Earlier in his sermon, when the crowd was chanting "Death to America," Meshkini beseeched God to "please destroy them with your wrath which is like a sword." Meshkini was not the only official to encourage participation in the 14 December rallies.
President Mohammad Khatami on 6 December urged Iranians and the Islamic community to participate in the anti-Israel rallies, and he condemned countries that have a double standard on human rights. "Human rights have currently become a tool for many powers to put freedom-loving countries under pressure," he said, according to IRNA. The Ministry of Defense on 10 December and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 12 December also encouraged participation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Middle East peace process is unfair and inefficient, called on the UN to examine the root causes of violence in the region, and called for the repatriation of Palestinian refugees. It added that Iran supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemned the U.S. and U.K. for supporting Israel during the 7 December sermon in Tehran, and he urged people to attend the next week's rallies. Hojatoleslam Mohammad Mohammadi-Reyshahri said on 7 December that participation in the rallies should be better than ever because "the Zionist regime of Israel has stepped up [its] crimes," IRNA reported. The Islamic Propagation Organization on 9 December also called for massive participation.
"Pressure must be exerted on rogue powers which are supporting the Zionists without asking any question," the speaker of parliament, Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi, said as he called on people to participate in Qods Day. Reformist parliamentarian Ali Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur announced a letter to the UN requesting an international tribunal to try Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for war crimes.
Other parliamentarians had similar sentiments. Hassan Qashqavi of Robat Karim said in the 12 December "Tehran Times" that "it is vital that people take part in the Qods Day demonstration to expose Zionist atrocities and defend the violated rights of their Palestinian brethren." Fazel Amir-Jahani of Khorramdareh said that the "command room and planning headquarters" for the Israeli attacks against Palestinians is in America, and "an important section of American policy makers and intelligence providers are Zionists," ISNA reported on 12 December. According to a statement signed by about 200 deputies: "The Islamic and Arab states have explored ways to help the Palestinians. They supported the Palestinian resistance to Israeli aggressions, but the Zionist regime continued its violence enjoying support from the United States and Britain."
Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command have indicated their appreciation of such Iranian support. Khalid Mashaal, head of the Hamas political bureau, told Iranian state television on 11 December that events such as Qods Day contribute to "increasing our people's resistance and made the Palestinian people realize that the Islamic nation was right behind them and that it was supporting them." Ahmad Jibril of the PFLP-GC told Iranian state television on 11 December that Qods Day gives Muslims a chance to take a stance on the Jerusalem issue.
On Qods Day, millions of people, including Jews and Christians, marched through Tehran, according to IRNA and state broadcasting. They carried the usual inflammatory placards and voiced the usual "Death to..." chants. Their resolution, IRNA reported, said that U.S. support for the "Zionist Regime" is the "key" to the suppression and massacre of the Palestinian people, and "the cancerous tumor of Israel is the top threat to the Middle East and the world of Islam." In his Friday Prayers sermon, Ayatollah Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani blamed the "global arrogance, led by the U.S.A. and U.K.," for Israel's "crimes." And in the pre-sermon speech, former parliamentary speaker Hojatoleslam Ali-Akbar Nateq-Nuri said the U.S. was using the 11 September terrorist attacks as a pretext for creating a new world order and eliminating Islam. (Bill Samii)