Thursday, July 22, 2004

KRT Wire | 07/22/2004 | Report details missed opportunities to disrupt Sept. 11 attacks

KRT Wire | 07/22/2004 | Report details missed opportunities to disrupt Sept. 11 attacks: "Report details missed opportunities to disrupt Sept. 11 attacks

BY JIM LANDERS

The Dallas Morning News


WASHINGTON - (KRT) - Two mistake-prone hijackers aboard the flight that hit the Pentagon offered repeated opportunities for the CIA and the FBI to disrupt the Sept. 11 plot. But from December 1999 until late August 2001, intelligence officials either sat on their hands or held back information about Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hamzi, the Sept. 11 commission reported Thursday.

"The simple fact of their detention could have derailed the plan," the commission concluded.

The Sept. 11 commission's report lists 10 "operational opportunities" where U.S. officials might have disrupted the terrorist attacks. Eight involved Hazmi and Mihdhar.

There were other opportunities to disrupt the attacks that cascaded from the 10 identified in the report. Both men might have been detained when they arrived in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 2000, if immigration officials had been warned to watch for passport alterations used by al-Qaida. Hamzi might have been detained when he reported an attempted robbery to Fairfax County, Va., police on May 1, 2001.

But U.S. law enforcement authorities did not know to be on the lookout for the two men until late August 2001.

Hazmi and Mihdhar were born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. They fought together as Islamist warriors in Bosnia in 1995, and were in Afghanistan several times. They had a friend named Azzam who was killed in the Aug. 7, 1998, al-Qaida attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 plot later captured in Pakistan, has told U.S. interrogators that Hazmi and Mihdhar were among the first four individuals chosen by Osama bin Laden to participate in the plot.

Mohammed said bin Laden, in a meeting in the spring of 1999, described the two Saudis as so as eager to participate in an attack on the United States that they had already obtained U.S. visas. Neither spoke English.

None of this was known by U.S. intelligence before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Sept. 11 commission's final report, earlier staff reports, and CIA briefings show Hamzi and Mihdhar popped up on the U.S. intelligence screen late in 1999. That's when the National Security Agency intercepted communications that pointed to a planned meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, among three men named Khalid, Nawaf and Salem.

The NSA's database had information indicating that Nawaf was Nawaf al Hazmi, and that Salem (also destined to be one of the Sept. 11 hijackers) was his brother. But the last name of the two brothers was not passed along to the CIA.

The Sept. 11 report doesn't say much about the NSA intercept. But a senior CIA official speaking on condition of anonymity told reporters Wednesday that the intercept involved a telephone in Yemen.

An al-Qaida participant in the Kenya bombing left behind the Yemen phone number of his father-in-law. The man also was the father-in-law of Khalid al Mihdhar.

U.S. officials tracked Mihdhar from Yemen to Malaysia, where he arrived on Jan. 5, 2000. An urgent query to the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, disclosed that Mihdhar had a U.S. visa. He was filmed meeting with several other Arabs. He flew to Bangkok on Jan. 8, along with two others identified as "Alhazmi" and "Salahsae," but CIA operatives in Bangkok were notified too late to track them.

In March, the Bangkok CIA station reported that Nawaf al Hazmi had flown to Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 2000.

At this point, the Sept. 11 commission concluded, the CIA missed an opportunity to put both Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi on a U.S. watch list for terrorism suspects. The commission determined that none of the information about their contacts and travels was given to the FBI.

CIA officials dispute that conclusion.

"We did not nominate al Mihdhar and al Hazmi to the watch list when we should have," a senior CIA official told reporters Wednesday. But "(t)o us, the most disturbing and most inaccurate evaluation is that CIA withheld information from the FBI and the Department of State about al Mihdhar and al Hazmi."

The information was available to the others, he said, but no one grasped its significance until much later.

In June 2000, Mihdhar left California to return to Yemen. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Sept. 11 mastermind, later told U.S. interrogators Mihdhar's departure was a mistake he felt "could endanger the entire plan" because of Mihdhar's need for another visa and his prior association with Islamist terrorist activities.

The commission said there were four other missed opportunities to catch up with Hazmi and Mihdhar in 2001, when the Kuala Lumpur meeting took on added significance as part of the investigation into the October 2000 bombing in Yemen of the Navy destroyer USS Cole.

In August, an FBI analyst working with the CIA counter-terrorism center pieced together information showing Mihdhar and Hazmi heading for the United States. The FBI notified immigration officials, who reported both men had entered the country. They were added to the terrorism suspects' watch list on August 24, 2001. But there was no urgency attached to the search for the two men."

English Radio: Kharrazi: EU should Concede Iran�s Role in Middle East

English Radio: "Kharrazi: EU should Concede Iran�s Role in Middle East
Top Iranian Diplomat, Kamal Kharrazi urged on deep relations with the European Union Wednesday night. Upon arrival from a tour to Egypt, attending a conference formed by Iraq�s neighboring states, Kharrazi said, referring to his talks with European Union Foreign Relations Chief Javier Solana, that despite sheer ups and downs in the EU-Iran relations, Tehran has always emphasized on broadening of ties between the two sides. Iranian foreign minister said Islamic Republic of Iran is to ensure about the both sides� interests, although the European Union has indicated laxity in fulfilling its responsibilities towards Iran. Kharrazi had told Solana during the negotiations, �If the European Union desires an extensive relation with Islamic Republic of Iran, it should concede to Tehran�s sensitive role in maintaining the region�s peace and stability. "

Foreign Policy In Focus Special Report: Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War

Foreign Policy In Focus Special Report: Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War: "Military Mistakes: A number of former military officials have criticized the war, including retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, who has charged that by manufacturing a false rationale for war, abandoning traditional allies, propping up and trusting Iraqi exiles, and failing to plan for post-war Iraq, the Bush Administration made the United States less secure. "

Iranian Ambassador meets Saudi Minister of Commerce

Iranianambassador meets Saudi minister of commerce: "Iranian ambassador meets Saudi minister of commerce

Riyadh, July 22, IRNA -- Iranian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ali Asghar Khaji held talks with Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry Hashim Yamani on economic cooperation between the two countries. Khaji, alluding to the excellent bilateral ties, said that Tehran-Riyadh growing cooperation is token of mutual determination on behalf of Iranian and Saudi nations and officials to do so.

He said consolidation of Iran-Saudi Arabian relations is an effective step to develop regional cooperation and establishment of peace and stability in the region. Yamani, for his part, praised the efforts made by Iranian tradesmen to increase the volume of trade exchange. Iran and Saudi Arabia have great potentials to bolster their cooperation, he added. Saudi Minister underlined the necessity of regional cooperation, particularly economic ties between Persian Gulf states."

Unlike Majlis, no rejection of popular candidates - Moussavi and Rafsanjani mentioned

Unlike Majlis,no rejection of popular candidates in Presidential: "Unlike Majlis no rejection of popular candidates in Presidential
election, Hadi Khamenei
Mashhad, July 22, IRNA -- Secretary General of Assembly of Political Parties Following Imam Khomeini`s Line Hojatoleslam Seyed Hadi Khamenei said the extensive disqualification took place in the 7th parliamentary election on February 20 should not be repeated in the presidential election.

He made remarks here on Wednesday on the martyrdom anniversary of Hazrat-e Fatemeh (AS), the beloved daughter of Prophet Mohammad (SA) at the office of Ayatollah Sanei. He said that the Guardian Council is expected not to bar the popular and national figures from running for president. Hadi Khamenei elaborated on the activities of the assembly saying it is a political formation and will have effective role in the presidential election.

We want to take strides on the direction of pro-reform 2nd Khordad groups and we will back this political camp, he added. No pro-reform hopeful has been introduced so far but 2nd Khordad has many acceptable members to be candidate, he reiterated. Alluding to reform movement supporting candidacy of Mir Hossein Moussavi, Hadi Khamenei called him a person with high capacity who can be effective as chief executive. He said that the assembly as a branch of the reform camp is ready to back Mousavi`s candidacy.

In another development, he pointed to Hashemi Rafsanjani as a person who has made diligent efforts for Islamic Revolution and said his presence in the election as one of the hopefuls can contribute to the presence of the people. "A number of pro-reform groups have found fault with him. We have objection to them. Criticism should be constructive," he said.

Alluding to the future reform in Iran, he said, the reform movement has been initiated by the Islamic Revolution and it is not the issue of the current years. It has been expedited after presidential election of 1997, he said. Iranian nation always call for reforms and they did not exercise turnout in the 7th parliamentary election because of the disqualification of reformist hopefuls, he added. Commenting on the pro-reform extremists, he said that they exist in all political formations.

He said that the pathology study about the reform movement indicated that extremist approach caused difficulty for the reform and
the achievements of the reform movement would be doubled in absence of extremism."

Reuters.com Force Would Not Stop Any Iran Nuke Plans: Experts

International News Article | Reuters.com: "Force Would Not Stop Any Iran Nuke Plans: Experts
Thu Jul 22, 2004 10:13 AM ET


By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA, Austria (Reuters) - A military strike on Iranian atomic facilities would delay but not destroy the development of any nuclear weapons program, diplomats and analysts said.

"Military action is not the answer," said a senior international diplomat involved in the investigation of Iran's nuclear plans.

"It would only push them underground, like in Iraq," said the diplomat, who declined to be named. Israel has hinted it could use air strikes to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, which it and Washington believe are part of an attempt to acquire atomic weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear power program -- a charge Iran denies.

Convinced that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons, Israel bombed Iraq's Osiraq nuclear reactor in 1981. But instead of stopping him from pursuing the bomb, Saddam went underground and worked in secret until the program was uncovered by the U.N. nuclear watchdog in 1991.

Several analysts and diplomats said Iran learned from Iraq's mistakes and may be hiding nuclear sites from U.N. inspectors, who have been probing Tehran's atomic program for nearly two years to verify that it is peaceful as Iran insists.

"I think it's impossible to take out Iran's nuclear weapons program with military strikes," a defense industry expert, who declined to be named, told Reuters. "They can recuperate."

But Gary Samore, director of studies at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London and a former adviser to ex-President Bill Clinton, said military action could significantly delay any Iranian atomic weapons program.

"Military action could delay the development of nuclear weapons, assuming they know the right sites. It could buy them a considerable amount of time," Samore said. "At least part of Iran's clandestine program is now public. The question is whether there are parts we don't know about yet."

CALLS FOR SANCTIONS

The United States has not threatened Iran with military action.

For over a year, Washington has tried unsuccessfully to push the International Atomic Energy Agency to report Tehran to the U.N. Security Council, which could impose painful economic sanctions, for hiding its uranium-enrichment program for nearly two decades.

U.S. officials say this was a blatant violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but its call for reporting Iran to the Security Council has met with strong opposition from the European Union's three biggest states.

Israel Elad Altman, director of studies at the Institute for Policy and Strategy in Herzliya, Israel, said the French, German and British "carrot and stick" approach has failed and sanctions are needed. The European trio promised Iran peaceful nuclear technology in exchange for suspending its uranium enrichment.

Iran pledged in October to fully suspend the program but recently said it would resume the manufacture, assembly and testing of enrichment centrifuges, which can be used to enrich uranium for weapons.

"We must impose sanctions that really hurt," Altman said. "Iran needs sanctions that make them pay a price. If sanctions don't work, then they'll have to use military strikes. They don't need to hit every facility. It would just be symbolic."

Iran has already warned that military action would mean the end of cooperation with the IAEA. The agency has uncovered many potentially weapons-related activities in Iran, but no clear proof that Washington is right about Iran -- no "smoking gun."
"

Yemen rebel cleric given surrender chance

Yemen rebel cleric given surrender chance: "Yemen rebel cleric given surrender chance

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh reportedly ordered a halt to military operations to root out an anti-U.S. rebel cleric and encourage him to surrender.

The pro-government weekly September 26 said Thursday the presidential gesture is aimed at giving Hussein Badreddine al-Houthy, a former member of parliament, a chance to surrender and spare further bloodletting among his followers and Yemeni troops who have been battling for weeks in Saada near the Yemeni-Saudi border.

It will also give an opportunity to clerics in the province of Saada to mediate a settlement and convince al-Houthy to turn himself in to the authorities, the paper said.

It quoted official sources as saying Saleh's decision to halt operations came in response to pleas from Saada clerics and as part of the government's efforts to avoid further killings and death which resulted from the rebellion led by al-Houthy.

Al-Houthy, who has been hiding for weeks in the rugged mountains in Saada, is accused of fueling anti-U.S. sentiments and encouraging terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in Yemen."

albawaba.com: Iran FM: Presence of foreign forces - source of attacks in Iraq

albawaba.com: Iran FM: Presence of foreign forces - source of attacks in Iraq: "Iran FM: Presence of foreign forces - source of attacks in Iraq
22-07-2004, 10:13


Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said on Thursday that the presence of foreign forces in Iraq is the excuse for continuity of attacks in that country. He made this remark upon his arrival at Mehrabad airport, following his attendance in 6th round of Ministerial Conference of Iraq's Neighbors in Cairo.

"Due to the ongoing critical developments in Iraq, the neighbouring states can contribute to Iraqi transitional government on establishment of security and removing the obstacle of the country and holding democratic elections in Iraq".

The ministers issued a statement at the end of the meeting voicing their concern over delicate political condition of Iraq. The statement called for non-interference in Iraqi internal affairs and the key role of UN in protection of Iraqi national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The ministers described transferring power to Iraqi transitional government as a step forward to establish democracy and paving the way for democratic election in January 2005. Foreign ministers of Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Syria and Egypt participated in the conference.

Meanwhile, Kharrazi alluded to his negotiations with EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana on consolidation of ties between Iran and the EU, IRNA quoted him as saying.

In the negotiations with Solana, Iran made it clear that the EU did not respect its undertakings consistent with Tehran Declaration signed on October 21, 2003 or has adopted double standard toward its commitment, Kharrazi added. "If the EU is interested in extensive relations with the Islamic republic of Iran as a key player in establishment of peace and security in the region, it should refrain from double standard and stand firmly committed to its undertakings," the minister conveyed."

Sombre atmosphere hangs over Iran reformists’ meeting

Daily Times - Site Edition

"Sombre atmosphere hangs over Iran reformists’ meeting

TEHRAN: Iran’s embattled reformists, ousted in parliamentary elections this year, kicked off the annual meeting of their main party on Wednesday in an atmosphere more like a funeral than a political rally.

The conference, held in leafy north Tehran, coincided with a public holiday marking the death Fatemeh Zahra, the daughter of the Muslim prophet, hence participants were mostly clad in black.

But the members of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) had many other reasons for their sombre demeanour. Powerful regime hardliners barred most of them from even contesting February’s polls, banishing them into a tense political wilderness and paving the way for a conservative victory.

“The organising of the Majlis elections was an historical political about-turn,” IIPF leader Mohammad Reza Khatami, the brother of embattled President Mohammad Khatami, lamented in his opening speech.“This targeted Iran’s democracy (and) today we are facing censorship of the press.

This new wave of confronting the free press shows that there is a serious intention not to tolerate any voice of criticism,” he said in a speech that sounded like an obituary for the reformist movement."

Israel: No Iran bomb capability until '07

Israel: No Iran bomb capability until '07
By Dan Williams, Reuters | July 22, 2004


JERUSALEM -- Israeli estimates of when Iran will be able to build a nuclear bomb have been shifted two more years to 2007, an intelligence report said yesterday, and analysts credited the delay to international scrutiny of Tehran.

Security sources quoted the report -- delivered to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in private and leaked in part to the media -- as saying that within three years Iran would have the means to produce an atomic bomb by itself.

Iran vehemently denies pursuing nuclear weapons, saying its atomic ambitions are limited to generating electricity.

Iranian officials have also accused Israel of trying to distract the international community from its own assumed nuclear arsenal and stoking world opinion against the last Middle East foe that could challenge it militarily.

In 2000, Israeli security sources told Reuters that Iran would have nuclear capabilities within five years and was developing long-range missiles with which to lob warheads at Tel Aviv.

The regional picture has since changed, with a US-led invasion of Iraq bringing neighboring Iran under closer watch by the West -- especially after Tehran admitted in November to buying centrifuges used to enrich uranium from a black market set up by Pakistani nuclear weapons specialist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

For over a year, the United States has tried to pressure the UN International Atomic Energy Agency to report Iran to the Security Council for hiding its uranium enrichment program.

"The sense in Israel is that the international pressure and threat of sanctions against Iran have held up its nuclear ambitions," said Alon Ben-David of Jane's, which publishes Jane's Defense Weekly. "But no one believes the Iranian program has come to a halt."

Iran warns EU against double standards over nuclear issue

Iran warns EU against double standards over nuclear issue

22 July 2004

Iran warned the European Union on Thursday to refrain from using "double standards" in its dealings with the Islamic republic over its nuclear activities, the official news agency IRNA reported.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi accused the EU of failing to live up to undertakings in a landmark deal with Iran in October which saw Tehran agree to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But Iran has accused the Europeans of damaging the deal by sponsoring a critical resolution adopted last month by the IAEA, which deplored a lack of cooperation by Tehran.

"If the EU is interested in extensive relations with the Islamic republic of Iran as a key player in the establishment of peace and security in the region, it should refrain from double standards and stand firmly committed to its undertakings," Kharazi said after holding talks in Cairo with EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana.

"We made it clear that the EU did not respect its undertakings consistent with the Tehran Declaration signed on October 21, 2003 or it has adopted double standard toward its commitment," he said without elaborating.

However, Kharazi added: "Despite the ups and downs in Iran-EU relations, the two sides are keen on developing mutual ties."

The clerical regime in Tehran is accused by the United States of using an atomic energy programme as a cover for top secret weapons development, a charge Iran denies.

Under the October deal with Europe's "Big Three" of Britain, France and Germany, Iran agreed to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment, allow tougher inspections and file a comprehensive declaration of its nuclear activities.

But since then, IAEA experts have discovering omissions in Iran's reporting, inspection visits have been delayed and the regime has backing away from a pledge to suspend all enrichment-related activities.

Iran's top national security body has said that the next round of talks with Britain, France and Germany on the nuclear issue would resume later this month.