Sunday, July 25, 2004

U.S. Does Not Have the Power to Attack Iran: Army Commander

Description of Selected News: "U.S. Does Not Have the Power to Attack Iran: Army Commander

Tehran Times Political Desk
TEHRAN, July 25 (MNA) – Brigadier General Naser Mohammadifar, commander of the army’s land force, said here Sunday that Iran’s army forces have succeeded to produce modern weapons equipment despite the economic sanctions that the country faces.

If the U.S. knew that it could defeat Iran it would have attacked the country so far, Iran’s Students’ News Agency quoted him as saying.

The commander said that the U.S. is precisely studying Iran in order to estimate the nation’s courage, martyrdom-seeking beliefs, patriotic feelings and tendency toward the Islamic Revolution.

And they are aware that they do not have the power to attack Iran under any circumstances, he added.

“The dignity, honor and reputation of Iran and the Islamic Revolution lie in the hands of the country’s military power and armed forces and the enemy knows that we will consider martyrdom a great blessing once the commander of all forces issues an order,” Mohammadifar said.

He went on to say that Iran is currently in an exceptional situation and the U.S. has gained presence around the country as far as the Arvand River from South and only 10km to Iran in Afghanistan.

Mohammadifar stressed that Iran’s armed forces is observing all these movements with vigilance and awareness.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi also told reporters on Sunday that no country can dare attack the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Iran, Turkey Call For Expansion Of Mutual, Regional Cooperation

Description of Selected News: "Iran, Turkey Call For Expansion Of Mutual, Regional Cooperation

TEHRAN (IRNA) -- New Turkish Ambassador to Tehran Halit Bozkur Aran conferred here Sunday with the Chairman of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on expansion of mutual and regional cooperation.

According to the Public Relations Department of the Expediency Council, at the meeting, Rafsanjani highlighted regional developments as well as the current crisis in Iraq and said the countries of the region should exercise vigilance to prevent emergence of any unexpected situation in Iraq.

Describing mutual, regional and international cooperation as very significant, he called for collective cooperation among Iraq's neighboring countries to support the country's independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The decision of Turkey not to let its soil be used for attacks on Iraq should be considered as a positive move, he said adding that if such a decision had not been taken this would have inflicted irreparable damage on relations between Ankara and the Iraqi people.

Referring to ample historical, cultural, religious and geographical commonalties between Iran and Turkey, he called for further expansion of mutual relations as well as utilization of untapped potentials of the two sides.

Pointing to the economic investments made by the two countries such as the contract for import of gas to Turkey and its transit to Europe, he hoped to witness further expansion of mutual ties thanks to the efforts of the two sides' officials.

The new Turkish ambassador, for his part, briefed Rafsanjani on the latest political and economic developments between Iran and Turkey, and expressed the hope that the current ties between Tehran and Ankara would lead to further expansion of bilateral cooperation.

Referring to the issue of Iraq, he said Turkey and the Islamic Republic of Iran share common concerns about Iraq and the two countries are to adopt a common stands and policies to deal with regional and international issues.

Lack of people's sovereignty in Iraq will create numerous problems for the region in the future because the foreign countries will leave the country sooner or later and this is the regional countries that should try to solve the dilemma, he said. Referring to the investment made by Turkish companies in Iran, he said "We are now witnessing promotion of economic ties between the two countries and hope the current barriers will be lifted as soon as possible.""

Iran approves production of Renault L-90

Iran approves production of Renault L-90: "Iran approves production of Renault L-90
Tehran, July 25, IRNA -- Minister of Industries and Mines Es'haq Jahangiri in a meeting with the Managing Director of Renault-Nissan Alliance in Tehran on Sunday referred to the decisive impact of production of a new Renault model known as L-90 on Iran-France economic relations and announced the country's full support for such a project.

A report released by the Public Relations Department of the Ministry of Industries and Mines said that he underlined implementing the project exactly on schedule and export of vehicles according to the related contract.

"In addition to production of L-90, we expect Renault to pay attention to other issues as well," he added. The minister called for cooperation between the research departments of the French Renault and Iran Khodro as well as Saipa. "We need the expertise of the French Renault Company in designing the automobile body," he added.

For his part, the chairman of the French Renault-Nissan Alliance, Louis Schweitzer, expressed satisfaction with the production of Renault in Iran and said that the project is not a mere license for production of automobiles. "It is rather a joint undertaking for full transfer of technology to the Iranian partner. "If it is implemented on schedule, Iran will become the second producer of Renault after France," he added.

Schweitzer further referred to the talks held with Iranian auto parts producers and said despite having confidence in the quality of the produced parts, they should further be optimized to be competitive to European standards. Turning to the export of L-90, he said, "Our final objective is to turn Iran into a hub for the export of Renault L-90. This has been pointed out in the mutually signed agreements and will be beneficial to both sides."

Iran Khodro auto manufacturing group and the French Renault Company have formed a new car manufacturing company to produce light passenger vehicles in Iran. The joint venture, called Renault-Pars, officially started work Saturday evening in a ceremony held on the occasion. Under the terms of the agreement, 51 percent of the company's shares is owned by the French company Renault-Nissan Alliance and Iran Khodro owns the rest. Renault-Pars, due to operate under Renault license, will start producing inexpensive passenger cars brandnamed 'Logan` in 2006.

Logans are Type B of the L-90 series of Renault automobiles that operate on 1.6-liter engines, 16 valves and 107 horsepower. Renault-Pars was formed after three years of continuous negotiations between Iran Khodro and the French Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Schweitzer said Renault-Pars was formed to help coordinate the production and distribution of L-90 cars in Iran. The company starts with an annual output of 150,000 units and a capital of 300 millions euros. It is expected to gradually increase production up to 500,000 units in the coming years."

Toronto Sun Columnist: Eric Margolis - Iran new U.S. whipping boy

Toronto Sun Columnist: Eric Margolis - Iran new U.S. whipping boy: "Iran new U.S. whipping boy

Those who deceived America into attacking Iraq may be at it again, cautions Eric Margolis

By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor

Did Iran help al-Qaida stage the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States?

Perhaps, suggested the U.S. 9/11 commission. It claimed Iran allowed eight al-Qaida future airplane hijackers to pass through Iran from Afghanistan between seven and 11 months prior to the attacks on America.

Unnamed senior Bush administration officials also claim Iran proposed collaborating with al-Qaida in 2000, but was rejected by Osama bin Laden. "Maybe we attacked the wrong country," one of the dimmer lights in Congress ruefully observed.

There has been no real evidence produced that Iran knew of the 9/11 attacks or assisted them. In fact, the Bush administration has still never produced the white paper promised by Colin Powell in late 2001 proving bin Laden and al-Qaida were behind 9/11.

Why would Iran, knowing it was in Bush's gunsights, join in a monstrous terrorist attack that, if linked to Tehran, could have conceivably brought U.S. nuclear retaliation?

This column has long predicted the Bush administration would orchestrate a pre-election crisis over Iran designed to whip up patriotic fervour in the U.S. and distract public and media attention from the Iraq fiasco.

Growing clamour

The growing clamour over Iran's nuclear intentions, with rumblings about air strikes against Iran's reactors in the fall, may prove to be a part of just such a manufactured crisis.

Remember, these latest fevered claims about Iran come from the same "reliable intelligence sources" and neo-conservative hawks who insisted Iraq had a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that threatened the U.S., with intimate links to al-Qaida.

The Iran-Afghan border is 1,000 km of wild, broken terrain that is extremely difficult to police. Large numbers of smugglers cross this border on countless hidden trails, bringing hashish and gems into Iran. The U.S., with fleets of planes, helicopters and sensors, cannot stop a flood of undocumented Mexicans crossing its own southwestern borders.

Why should the poorly equipped Iranians do any better?

Didn't these same 9/11 hijackers also enter the U.S. unchallenged? Of course. They slipped unnoticed into Iran and the U.S. No one knew their intentions. This is the most likely explanation.

Iran does not have a unified government. This nation of 72.5 million is afflicted by feuding factions that have produced a state of political chaos. Iran has certainly been involved in acts of terrorism, notably against Jews in Argentina.

And militants from the intelligence service or Pasdarann (Revolutionary Guards), might have let al-Qaida mujahidin slip across the border without Tehran's knowledge.

But far more important are two key facts that most media and the government aren't telling you.

First, Iran and al-Qaida were bitter enemies.

In Afghanistan, al-Qaida ardently backed the Pushtun-dominated, Sunni Taliban movement, which hated Shia as heretics and killed large numbers of them. Shia Iran (and Russia) armed and supported the Taliban's greatest foe, Ahmad Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance, composed of Dari (a Persian dialect)-speaking Tajiks, Afghan communists, and Shia. Massoud was a long-time collaborator with Soviet/Russian intelligence.

After the Taliban killed a group of Iranian intelligence agents, Iran almost invaded Afghanistan to overthrow them.

Just before 9/11, al-Qaida assassinated Massoud.

Iran quietly aided the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan that overthrew the Taliban, and jailed scores of al-Qaida members, including one of bin Laden's sons.

Active Iranian co-operation with al-Qaida seems illogical. Of course my enemy's enemy is my friend, and collaboration was theoretically possible, but Iran derived no benefit whatever from the 9/11 attacks -- quite the contrary.

Second, the Bush administration and former Clinton officials are trading accusations that the other was responsible for failing to take action against al-Qaida and its Taliban allies prior to 9/11.

But what no one admits is that both administrations sent millions in aid to the Taliban until four months before 9/11."

Iran Says U.S. Senators 'Daydream' of Regime Change

Top News Article | "Iran Says U.S. Senators 'Daydream' of Regime Change
Sun Jul 25, 2004 07:33 AM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Foreign Ministry on Sunday branded as "daydreamers" U.S. senators who have sponsored a bill aimed at toppling Tehran's clerical rulers by supporting opposition groups inside and outside the country.
Republican senators Rick Santorum, representing Pennsylvania, and John Cornyn of Texas introduced the "Iran Freedom and Support Act of 2004" earlier this month.

The bill authorizes the U.S. president to provide $10 million to foreign and domestic Iranian pro-democracy groups such as radio and television networks in order to promote regime change in the Islamic state.

"Those who draft such plans lag behind the times, they live in their daydreams," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference.

"They neither know Iran, nor the Iranian opposition," he said adding that arch-foe Washington had been "plotting against Iran ever since the (1979) Islamic revolution" without success.

While disillusionment with the 25-year-old Islamic revolution is widespread among Iran's disproportionately youthful population, opposition to the ruling establishment is weak and disorganized.

Despite appeals by California-based satellite channels run by Iranian exiles for mass demonstrations last month to mark the fifth anniversary of student protests brutally crushed by security forces, there were no large gatherings in Iran.

Nor were there any mass protests in February when Islamic conservatives fiercely loyal to the country's clerical rulers swept to victory in elections denounced as a sham by reformists allied to moderate President Mohammad Khatami.

Political analysts say exile opposition groups such as supporters of the former monarchy or the Iraq-based People's Mujahideen Organization enjoy negligible support within Iran itself."

CFR's Walter Russell Mead: A Darker Shadow Than Iraq

A Darker Shadow Than Iraq: "A Darker Shadow Than Iraq

By Walter Russell Mead, Walter Russell Mead, a contributing editor to Opinion and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author, most recently, of "Power, Terror, Peace and War: America's Grand Strategy

NEW YORK — Americans and the two major presidential candidates have reached a consensus on the Middle East: We would like it to go away and stop bothering us for a while. Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen.

The trouble isn't coming from the usual suspects. Despite continuing low-level violence, Iraq seems to be settling down a bit under the interim government of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, whose success at gaining international legitimacy has made Iraq less of an issue in the rest of the world. With the Israelis negotiating a possible coalition government, and the Palestinians consumed by their own political crisis, both sides in the Middle East's longest and bitterest dispute seem too preoccupied to launch a major new international crisis.

Iraq and the unhappy cotenants of the Holy Land will no doubt be heard from again, but there's a larger and darker shadow over the Middle East, one that neither the U.S. nor anybody else has a clear idea of what to do. The problem is Iran — or, rather, Iran's effort to get nuclear weapons.

What Saddam Hussein was accused of — building and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction in violation of international obligations and harboring and cooperating with terrorists — Iran does. Its links to Al Qaeda seem both more extensive than Hussein's and better documented.

Moreover, Iran's statements about the nuclear weapons it hopes to build are far from reassuring. In December 2001, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani said the "application of an atom bomb would not leave anything in Israel" but would produce only "damages" in the Muslim world. After the nuclear destruction of Israel, Rafsanjani said, "Jews shall expect to once again be scattered and wandering around the globe."

Nobody in the United States wants a confrontation with Iran. An independent Council on Foreign Relations task force, co-chaired by former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA Director Robert M. Gates, calls for closer engagement with Iran in the hope of increased cooperation. Brzezinski's presence on the task force was particularly significant. As President Carter's national security advisor during the Iranian hostage crisis, Brzezinski persistently favored a more hawkish approach to Iran than Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.

The Bush administration, for its part, has treated Iran the way many of its critics wanted it to treat Iraq: It has supported a European Union initiative to resolve the nuclear issue in a peaceful way.

So there's a widespread U.S. consensus to engage Iran in peaceful negotiations in partnership with Europe. This strategy has one small flaw: So far, it isn't working.

European and even Russian pressure on Iran, with the possibility of additional U.S. pressure down the road, has not persuaded the Iranians to reassure the world about their nuclear intentions. The diplomats haven't given up yet — and they shouldn't. There might even be, as the task force report suggests, some additional carrots to put on the table. Both Iran and the U.S. have much to gain from ending a generation of hostility and learning to work together on issues of mutual concern.

But Americans should ask the hard questions. What happens if Iran continues to resist European and U.S. efforts to engage over the nuclear issue? To put it more bluntly, if all the alternatives have been exhausted, if peaceful engagement doesn't work, are we willing to go to war with Iran to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons?

This is probably a tougher question for Democrats than for the Bush administration. Clearly, the administration isn't spoiling for new crises, to say nothing of new wars, in the Middle East. But the Bush Doctrine is pretty clear on this point. Iran is an authoritarian regime pursuing weapons of mass destruction while maintaining links to terrorists. An administration faced with an Iran that rejects diplomacy would have to either eat the Bush Doctrine or press forward toward military confrontation — hoping that coercive diplomacy, backed up by a credible threat of force, would persuade Iran's mullahs that compromise was the only option.

It's unclear how a John Kerry administration would respond. Many scholars contend that the U.S. can live with a nuclear Iran. They say nuclear weapons have tended to make regimes more responsible, not less, over time. Look at the Soviet Union and China. Look at India and Pakistan. Beyond this, much of the Democratic Party's base believes that Iraq was one Middle Eastern war too many to fight for the Bush Doctrine.

Yet the political pressure on a Kerry White House to stop Iran's drive for nuclear weapons would be intense. A nuclear Iran threatening genocidal strikes against Israel while flirting with terror groups sworn to destroy the U.S. is not exactly the kind of Middle East that Democrats want.

Many Democrats (and quite a few Republicans) hope there's an intermediate step between failed negotiations and coercive diplomacy backed by the threat of force. If negotiations break down, wouldn't the U.N. Security Council impose sanctions that would make Iran reconsider?

Let's hope so, but once again let's look at the facts. France and Russia have large commercial interests at stake in Iran, they have their own political agendas in the Middle East and they may not see a nuclear Iran as threatening their interests in the way Americans do. France and/or Russia might block any sanctions tough enough to work. We may find that the most we can get from the United Nations would be "slap on the wrist" sanctions that anger and insult Iran but don't reduce its ability to go nuclear.

The U.S. may wind up facing in Iran the choice our intelligence agencies told us we faced in Iraq: between military action against a rogue regime or allowing that regime to assemble an arsenal of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

If we get to that unhappy place, the chances are we will again not get Security Council backing for military action.

This choice is not yet inevitable, and the diplomats still have some tricks up their sleeves, but the U.S. is closer than many think to what could well be the biggest and most difficult crisis in the war on terror yet."

Decades of Bad Iran Policy

Decades of Bad Iran Policy: "During the 1980s, the Reagan administration cozied up to Hussein even as he was gassing Iranian soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war. At the same time, the White House went ahead with the so-called Iran-Contra deal, which supplied the mullahs with arms (as well as a Bible signed by President Reagan and a cake that were supposed to demonstrate U.S. goodwill) as part of a complicated scheme to fund Nicaraguan anti-communist Contra rebels. At the time, Congress forbade direct U.S. aid to the Contras.

Then, in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush stood by listlessly as Hussein used helicopter gunships to gas Kurds and Shiites. More than a decade later, President George W. Bush went to war to destroy those weapons of mass destruction, after they no longer existed.

Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, is being investigated by a grand jury for possibly violating federal sanctions by operating in Iran during Cheney's time as CEO. Today, Cheney is the last major holdout claiming extensive Al Qaeda ties with Hussein.

Here's the real story: Overthrowing Hussein has opened up Iraq to Iran, which has, among other things, allowed Al Qaeda agents to infiltrate Iraq. The Iraqi defense and interior ministers both accuse Iran of fomenting terrorism and have threatened military retaliation inside Iran.

With the U.S. military stretched tightly, it has no capability to back up such bluster even if it wanted to. Washington already has to turn a half-blind eye to the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and ignore the Taliban ties of many Pakistani officials and warlords.

Perhaps Iran really is reforming internally, as a newly released Council on Foreign Relations study headed by former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former CIA Director Robert M. Gates argues. Perhaps the U.S. should more urgently seek dialogue with the government in Tehran and hope that diplomacy will produce better results than it has so far.

Given the resources the administration has squandered in Iraq, it might have no other choice. "