Friday, August 13, 2004

http://www.aljazeerah.info/News%20archives/2004%20News%20archives/August/13n/Iran%20Military%20Warns%20of%20New%20Vietnam%20in%20Iraq.htm

Iran Military Warns of New Vietnam in Iraq: "Iran Military Warns of New Vietnam in Iraq

Agence France Presse, Reuters, Arab News

TEHRAN, 13 August 2004 — Iran yesterday condemned the US “atrocities” in Iraq where American troops backed by Iraqi soldiers were locked in a deadly showdown with Shi'i cleric Moqtada Sadr’s militia. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi expressed Iran’s “extreme concern” and “disgust” over the “atrocities” being carried out by US forces in neighboring Iraq, news agencies reported.

He condemned what he called “the total lack of morality” on the part of the occupation forces and “the duplicity of those who speak of democracy” but were holding up any genuine return of sovereignty to the Iraqis. International organizations must “react without delay to the events in Najaf and stop the massacre of the innocent”, he said.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards militia, the predominantly Shi'i country’s ideological backbone, called for Iraqis to close ranks in their “resistance” to the Americans and warned of a new Vietnam for the United States. “The Iraqi people must unite in their resistance to the occupiers and put aside their difference,” it said in a statement.

“The day is not far when the occupiers will suffer the same humiliation as in Vietnam,” said the Revolutionary Guards, which the United States has accused of interference in Iraq since the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

The Guards condemned the US “violations” of some of the holiest sites in Shi'i Islam, notably around the Imam Ali shrine that has been turned into a Mehdi Army stronghold. They called on Iranians to stage massive demonstrations after weekly Friday prayers to underline their “hatred for the occupiers and their solidarity with the oppressed people of Iraq”.

Foreign Ministry summoned Iraq’s top envoy in Tehran to protest the arrest of four journalists from Iran’s official IRNA news agency and kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat.

The IRNA journalists’ arrests on Monday by Iraqi police exacerbated tensions between the two neighbors who fought a bitter 1980-1988 war in which hundreds of thousands were killed.

Tehran has been angered by comments from some Iraqi and US officials that it is stirring up violence among the Shi'i population in Iraq. Iran says four Iranian business officials working to improve trade ties with Iraq have also been arrested in the past month by US troops who handed them over to Iraqi police. And an Iran consul to Karbala was kidnapped last week by a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq.

IRNA said a Foreign Ministry official told Iraq’s Charge d’Affaires to Iran Khalil Salman Al-Sabihi that the journalists’ arrests were “illegal and unacceptable”. He asked for “a prompt investigation by Iraqi officials, the immediate release of the detainees, and clarification of the situation of the missing diplomat in Iraq,” the agency said.

A separate IRNA report, citing Iran’s Charge d’Affaires in Baghdad Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said IRNA’s Baghdad Bureau Chief Mostafa Darban and three local staff were being held at Iraq’s Interior Ministry. US troops last year arrested two Iranian state television reporters in Iraq and held them for four months.

Iran has denied the allegations spearheaded by Defense Minister Hazem Al-Shaalan, who has called Tehran the “No. 1 enemy” and accused it of aiding rebel militia holding out in Najaf.

On Tuesday, IRNA said Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi had officially invited to Tehran Iraq’s interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who has expressed his willingness to visit the Islamic republic. IRNA said Kharrazi had discussed Shaalan’s accusations with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari, describing them as “surprising and unacceptable” and emphasizing that “the interim Iraqi government needs everyone’s cooperation and support, including Iran’s.”

According to IRNA, Kharrazi was assured by Zebari that the accusations “were not the official stance of the Iraqi government.” The two also discussed the fate of Jahani, IRNA said.

“Zebari reported on the continued efforts of Iraq’s government. Iraq will inform Iran as soon as it receives any news on the matter,” Kharrazi was quoted as saying."

BW Online | August 30, 2004 | Why Iran Is Giving The West The Willies

BW Online | August 30, 2004 | Why Iran Is Giving The West The Willies: "Why Iran Is Giving The West The Willies

What should the West do about Iran's nuclear program? That issue will be one of the hot foreign policy questions of September, when the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency meet to discuss the best way to make sure Tehran does not build the bomb. The Iranians are talking tough: On July 31 they announced they would resume building the centrifuges that can enrich uranium to weapons-grade strength. Iran says it's for peaceful purposes, but the Europeans, who thought they had brokered a deal to stop Iran's march to nuclear power status, are outraged. Advertisement

So are the Americans. And the Israelis. In early August, President George W. Bush and his National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said they would demand U.N.-imposed sanctions if Iran persists. Israel has set up a committee headed by the director of Mossad to monitor Iran's nuclear program, which Jerusalem thinks could yield a bomb by 2007, two years ahead of current estimates. Some Knesset members say Israel might eventually need to consider a surgical strike, like the one that took out Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Even the Arabs are uneasy. "Iranian hegemony in the Middle East is feared in many quarters," says Ephraim Kam, a Tel Aviv University strategic expert.

But Iran isn't necessarily worried about any threats. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Iranian leaders feared Tehran would be the next candidate for regime change. But the Pentagon is so tied down in Iraq that the odds of a military operation to oust the mullahs are near zero. The U.S. "is not going to be in a position to leverage or threaten anyone," says Jon Wolfsthal, an arms-proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. U.N. sanctions might be vetoed by China or Russia, two of Iran's nuclear suppliers. And Iran has probably scattered its nuclear sites across its vast and mountainous terrain to thwart any Israeli attack.

Interwoven interests
Finally, Iran is not a collapsed state like North Korea, whose only bargaining chip is its nuclear menace. Iran's oil production is a vital part of the world energy picture, and it has extensive commercial relations with Europe. Europe's governments may denounce Tehran for its nuclear ambitions, but at the same time Renault and Volkswagen have signed large deals with local companies. Amir Mohebian, an editor of Resalat, a conservative Tehran daily, believes that neither Europe nor the U.S. wants to cut off dialogue with the Iranian government. "The Iranians feel they're on a roll," says Steven Everts, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform in London.

That confidence, adds Everts, could prove misplaced. He thinks the West will be forced to respond with stiff sanctions if Iran builds a bomb. Is there a way out, now that both the Europeans' diplomatic approach and the Americans' hard-nosed tack have failed? One option, analysts say, is for them to switch roles, with Europe playing the bad cop by advocating sanctions and the U.S. holding out the carrot of diplomatic relations in exchange for ending the nuke program. If Washington shows that kind of flexibility, "it increases the chances of Europe supporting a more robust course of measures later," says Everts. That's the hope. But success is hardly assured."

BW Online | August 30, 2004 | Why Iran Is Giving The West The Willies

BW Online | August 30, 2004 | Why Iran Is Giving The West The Willies: "Why Iran Is Giving The West The Willies

What should the West do about Iran's nuclear program? That issue will be one of the hot foreign policy questions of September, when the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency meet to discuss the best way to make sure Tehran does not build the bomb. The Iranians are talking tough: On July 31 they announced they would resume building the centrifuges that can enrich uranium to weapons-grade strength. Iran says it's for peaceful purposes, but the Europeans, who thought they had brokered a deal to stop Iran's march to nuclear power status, are outraged. Advertisement

So are the Americans. And the Israelis. In early August, President George W. Bush and his National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said they would demand U.N.-imposed sanctions if Iran persists. Israel has set up a committee headed by the director of Mossad to monitor Iran's nuclear program, which Jerusalem thinks could yield a bomb by 2007, two years ahead of current estimates. Some Knesset members say Israel might eventually need to consider a surgical strike, like the one that took out Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Even the Arabs are uneasy. "Iranian hegemony in the Middle East is feared in many quarters," says Ephraim Kam, a Tel Aviv University strategic expert.

But Iran isn't necessarily worried about any threats. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Iranian leaders feared Tehran would be the next candidate for regime change. But the Pentagon is so tied down in Iraq that the odds of a military operation to oust the mullahs are near zero. The U.S. "is not going to be in a position to leverage or threaten anyone," says Jon Wolfsthal, an arms-proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. U.N. sanctions might be vetoed by China or Russia, two of Iran's nuclear suppliers. And Iran has probably scattered its nuclear sites across its vast and mountainous terrain to thwart any Israeli attack.

Interwoven interests
Finally, Iran is not a collapsed state like North Korea, whose only bargaining chip is its nuclear menace. Iran's oil production is a vital part of the world energy picture, and it has extensive commercial relations with Europe. Europe's governments may denounce Tehran for its nuclear ambitions, but at the same time Renault and Volkswagen have signed large deals with local companies. Amir Mohebian, an editor of Resalat, a conservative Tehran daily, believes that neither Europe nor the U.S. wants to cut off dialogue with the Iranian government. "The Iranians feel they're on a roll," says Steven Everts, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform in London.

That confidence, adds Everts, could prove misplaced. He thinks the West will be forced to respond with stiff sanctions if Iran builds a bomb. Is there a way out, now that both the Europeans' diplomatic approach and the Americans' hard-nosed tack have failed? One option, analysts say, is for them to switch roles, with Europe playing the bad cop by advocating sanctions and the U.S. holding out the carrot of diplomatic relations in exchange for ending the nuke program. If Washington shows that kind of flexibility, "it increases the chances of Europe supporting a more robust course of measures later," says Everts. That's the hope. But success is hardly assured."

BW Online | August 30, 2004 | Why Iran Is Giving The West The Willies

BW Online | August 30, 2004 | Why Iran Is Giving The West The Willies: "Why Iran Is Giving The West The Willies

What should the West do about Iran's nuclear program? That issue will be one of the hot foreign policy questions of September, when the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency meet to discuss the best way to make sure Tehran does not build the bomb. The Iranians are talking tough: On July 31 they announced they would resume building the centrifuges that can enrich uranium to weapons-grade strength. Iran says it's for peaceful purposes, but the Europeans, who thought they had brokered a deal to stop Iran's march to nuclear power status, are outraged. Advertisement

So are the Americans. And the Israelis. In early August, President George W. Bush and his National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said they would demand U.N.-imposed sanctions if Iran persists. Israel has set up a committee headed by the director of Mossad to monitor Iran's nuclear program, which Jerusalem thinks could yield a bomb by 2007, two years ahead of current estimates. Some Knesset members say Israel might eventually need to consider a surgical strike, like the one that took out Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Even the Arabs are uneasy. "Iranian hegemony in the Middle East is feared in many quarters," says Ephraim Kam, a Tel Aviv University strategic expert.

But Iran isn't necessarily worried about any threats. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, Iranian leaders feared Tehran would be the next candidate for regime change. But the Pentagon is so tied down in Iraq that the odds of a military operation to oust the mullahs are near zero. The U.S. "is not going to be in a position to leverage or threaten anyone," says Jon Wolfsthal, an arms-proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. U.N. sanctions might be vetoed by China or Russia, two of Iran's nuclear suppliers. And Iran has probably scattered its nuclear sites across its vast and mountainous terrain to thwart any Israeli attack.

Interwoven interests
Finally, Iran is not a collapsed state like North Korea, whose only bargaining chip is its nuclear menace. Iran's oil production is a vital part of the world energy picture, and it has extensive commercial relations with Europe. Europe's governments may denounce Tehran for its nuclear ambitions, but at the same time Renault and Volkswagen have signed large deals with local companies. Amir Mohebian, an editor of Resalat, a conservative Tehran daily, believes that neither Europe nor the U.S. wants to cut off dialogue with the Iranian government. "The Iranians feel they're on a roll," says Steven Everts, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform in London.

That confidence, adds Everts, could prove misplaced. He thinks the West will be forced to respond with stiff sanctions if Iran builds a bomb. Is there a way out, now that both the Europeans' diplomatic approach and the Americans' hard-nosed tack have failed? One option, analysts say, is for them to switch roles, with Europe playing the bad cop by advocating sanctions and the U.S. holding out the carrot of diplomatic relations in exchange for ending the nuke program. If Washington shows that kind of flexibility, "it increases the chances of Europe supporting a more robust course of measures later," says Everts. That's the hope. But success is hardly assured."

United Press International: Analysis: Iran's nuclear desires and perils

United Press International: Analysis: Iran's nuclear desires and perils: "Analysis: Iran's nuclear desires and perils
By Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Published 8/12/2004 8:44 AM


WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Sometime in the not too distant future the Islamic Republic of Iran will reach the point of no return in its drive toward becoming a military nuclear power -- the second in the Middle East after Israel.

A nuclear-armed Iran would present a perilous change in the region's precarious balance of power, setting the stage for greater incertitude and arms proliferation in the region. This sort of change is the last thing the volatile Middle East needs at this time.

A number of analysts believe that once Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will encourage other countries in the region such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who will feel threatened, and compelled, to re-evaluate their policies on acquiring nuclear weapons. Arab-Persian rivalry -- and mistrust -- dates back centuries. The introduction of nuclear weaponry will only serve to raise the stakes.

To date, no firm intelligence indicates that Egypt has shown any concrete interest in obtaining nuclear weapons. Egypt maintains a considerably sized army of more than 320,000 soldiers, not counting other services, such as the air force, navy, paramilitary forces, or reservists. Additionally, Egypt is believed to stockpile a significant amount of chemical and biological weapons.

On the other hand, the other Arab powerhouse, Saudi Arabia, finds itself in a far more vulnerable position. The desert kingdom is geographically closer to Iran, which it has always regarded as a potential threat, particularly once Tehran goes nuclear. Saudi Arabia's armed forces are far inferior to Iran's, both numerically and qualitatively. Already in a conventional war Saudi Arabia could never face Iran, and much less so a nuclear-armed Iran.

Unable to develop its own nuclear program, (one rumor has it because of tacit threats from Israel), Saudi Arabia, according to some recent reports, is believed to have partially financed Pakistan's program in return for a possible "lease" of Pakistan's nukes. In exchange for millions of dollars and barrels of oil offered by the Saudis, Pakistan was believed to have returned the favor by offering the use of some of its nukes, should the need ever arise.

Iran has long hoped to reach the threshold of regional superpower, and nuclear weapons will certainly give the Islamic republic that much sought-after status and the deterrence that comes with it.

If the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has taught any lessons to countries America regards as potential threats and/or enemies, it is this: countries that are better armed -- particularly with nuclear deterrence -- will force the United States to think twice before acting.

If invading Iraq was meant to remove the country's alleged weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East, as the Bush administration insists was the case, the argument could as easily be made that it might have had a reverse effect -- encouraging other nations in the region to move ahead and accelerate their nuclear programs. Iran falls nicely into that category.

If, or rather when, Iran becomes a nuclear power there is little doubt it will force neighboring Arab countries to follow suite. There is then the risk of whatever actions Israel might take to prevent Iran from attaining military-level nuclear capability. Israel is closely following developments and looking at its options.

Israel has acted in the past to ensure it remains the sole Middle Eastern nuclear power. In 1981 Israeli war jets bombed Iraq's nuclear reactor facility at Osirak, ending Saddam Hussein's dream of becoming the first Arab nuclear power.

Alluding to the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Commander Maj. Gen. Yehya Rahim Safawi warned on Thursday that Iran would strike at Israel painfully if it attempts to hit Iranian interests. "The Islamic Republic will strike with force at the Zionist entity (Israel) if it commits the stupidity of hitting the interests of the Iranian people," Safawi was quoted as saying by the Iranian News Agency, IRNA.

While this is not a subject Israeli officials like to discuss, there is little doubt that Israel is taking Iran's nuclear ambitions very seriously and developing contingency plans, no doubt preparing for Osirak-like scenarios.

Except this time the stakes are higher, more complicated and the consequences could be graver. An Israeli strike on Iran would endanger the lives of the 138,000 American troops currently deployed in Iraq, who could fall prey to Iran's vengeance. Iran is unlikely to take the bombing of its nuclear facilities lying down. Iran would never buy into the belief that an Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities was not carried out with the approval, or at least an inferred green light, from Washington.

The fierce fighting between American troops and supporters of the young firebrand Shiite religious leader, Moqtada Sadr, now in its second week in the holy city of Najaf, could serve as a brief apercu of what could be in store if Iran activated its supporters inside Iraq.

A better deterrence would be to engage the Iranians in dialogue rather than to allow the crisis to develop into a conflict. Refusal to open negotiations with Tehran and placing them in the "Axis of Evil" is not going to help defuse the situation. The cold shoulder policy is the wrong policy. It will only encourage Iran to pursue its nuclear dreams, pushing the Middle East into the danger-red zone and into greater nuclear proliferation."

IranDidban.com - Iran Expects MKO's Expulsion

IranDidban.com - Iran Expects MKO's Expulsion: "Iran Expects MKO's Expulsion

Hambastegi Melli Website
Rafsanjani: we expect Iraqi governing council's decision about MKO to be executed.

Iranian news channel (channel 6): During a meeting with the visiting Iraqi Finance Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, he praised the 'wise and brave' Iraqi nation, saying it does not need a foreign advisor or guardian.

Condemning the acts of terrorists and military operations that have claimed many Iraqi lives and desecreated holy sites in different parts of Iraq, Rafsanjani called for the expulsion of members of the terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) from the war-torn country."

IranDidban.com - MKO Dissents Fled to Jordan

IranDidban.com - MKO Dissents Fled to Jordan: "MKO Dissents Fled to Jordan

IRNA
Marwan Al-Ma'shar, Jordanian foreign minister, said: '60 MKO members entered Al-Royshed refugee camp in Iraq-Jordan border last week.'

Al-Diar newspaper quoted Al-Ma'shar on Wednesday saying: 'these people used volatile situation in Iraq to enter this camp and Jordanian government will talk with Iraqi officials about returning them.'

Stressing that their presence in Jordan will not have good effects on Tehran-Amman ties, he said that Jordan will not extradite them to Iran.

Al-Ma'shar added:'Iranian government has repeatedly asked for their extradition, but Jordan has refused.'"

Asia Times - Iraq and Iran swap blows

Asia Times - Asia's most trusted news source for the Middle East: "Middle East

Iraq and Iran swap blows
By Safa Haeri

PARIS - Already clouded, relations between Iran and neighboring Iraq have darkened further in the past week with the kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat and arrest of intelligence officers, and renewed charges by Iraqi officials that the Islamic Republic is interfering in Iraq's internal affairs.

On Monday, Hazem Sha'lan, the Iraqi Defense Minister, again described Iran as Iraq's "number one" enemy and accused Tehran of sending weapons to followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, the rebel Shi'ite cleric fighting US-led forces in Iraq, with the flashpoint being the holy city of Najaf. Sha'lan accused Iran of "clear interference in Iraq", including taking over some Iraqi border posts and sending in spies and saboteurs.

Earlier, the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced the arrest of four Iranian intelligence officers, saying they had been detained in Baghdad on suspicion of spying and carrying out acts of sabotage in the country.

Fighting between the defiant Muqtada, who many sources in both Baghdad and Tehran insist is backed by Iran's ruling ayatollahs against US forces and Iraqi police, broke out seven days ago in Najaf, Diwaniyaah and Baghdad, leaving more than 400 people dead and wounded, most of them from Muqtada's Mehdi Army.

On Thursday, US marines, backed by aircraft, battled militia dug in at a cemetery in Najaf, a day after the military said it would launch an offensive to end the rebellion once and for all.

In response, an official of the Mehdi Army, Sheik Asaad al-Basri, has warned that militiamen will blow up pipelines in the south if US forces try to storm their Najaf bases - a statement that has sent the price of oil on global markets to record highs of more than US$45 a barrel.

Most of Muqtada's militia and the cleric himself are dug in around Najaf's ancient Shi'ite cemetery and the adjoining Imam Ali Shrine. Storming such holy symbols could touch off a widespread reaction among Iraq's majority Shi'ite community.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, fighters from the Mehdi Army now appear almost entirely in control of the vast slum of Sadr City, a predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood of 2 million people. Formerly named Saddam City, it was renamed for Muqtada's father, a senior Shi'ite cleric killed by suspected agents of Saddam Hussein in 1999. Dozens of junior clerics in the slum have gained popularity by restoring services and security after Saddam's fall.

Angered by Sha'lan's accusations, Iran on Sunday summoned Iraq's charge d'affaires in Tehran to substantiate claims of Iranian involvement in Iraq. "Today we summoned the Iraqi charge d'affaires to ask him to give us proof," foreign affairs senior spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said, adding that Iraqi officials should also "stop creating a bad atmosphere" between Iran and Iraq.

Iran has yet to recognize the Iraqi interim government formally, put in place by the United States on June 28 pending elections in January, and which has been described by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as "lackeys" of the Americans.

Sha'lan told the Arabic television station al-Arabiyah that Iranian-made weapons had been found on Mehdi Army fighters, and warned Muqtada's men to put down their arms or face "extinction".

Adnan al-Zurufi, the governor of Najaf, backed Sha'lan's accusations, claiming that 80 men fighting US forces in Najaf had been found to be Iranian. "There is Iranian support for [Muqtada] al-Sadr's group, and this is no secret," he said.

In response, Muqtada has said he will fight US and British invaders to his "last drop of blood", and Iran has denied allegations that it is arming militia groups in Najaf. "I will continue fighting," the cleric told reporters in Najaf. "I will remain in Najaf city until the last drop of my blood has been spilled. Resistance will continue and increase day by day," he said. "Our demand is for the American occupation to get out of Iraq. We want an independent, democratic, free country."

For his part, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Sha'lan is a political amateur with little experience and that he lacks the minimum qualifications for knowing the truth. "The weapons [Sha'lan] claims are made in Iran have in fact been in Iraq since the [Iran-Iraq] war [of 1980-88]. Similarly, one can find many Iraqi arms in Iran," the minister explained in an interview with an Arabic television station.

In an interview with the Kuwaiti daily newspaper al-Anba, Sha'lan - whom the Iranian press and lawmakers describe as a "petty CIA [US Central Intelligence Agency] informer" - also urged Iran to send back 130 Iraqi planes, 30 of them Boeing passenger aircraft and the rest jet fighters and bombers - most of them Russian-made, but also some French-made Mirages. This is in reference to the thorny problem of the planes Saddam sent to Iran to save them from destruction during the first Gulf War in 1991.

Tehran insists that only 22 military planes were sent to Iran, with some of them badly damaged in landing. But it says it is ready to return them if asked by the United Nations. "We will discuss these issues with the coming elected government officials, and not with the interim government," an obviously angry Asefi added.

Relations between the two countries have also been complicated by the kidnapping of Fereydoun Jahani, an Iranian diplomat due to open a consulate in the holy city of Karbala, by a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq. According to the group as quoted by an Arabic television station, Jahani is an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' intelligence detained for "stirring sectarian strife and for activities outside his diplomatic duties".

Iranian officials have confirmed that Jahani "disappeared" on Wednesday, and explained that they had withheld the news of the kidnapping in the hope of having him freed. When asked about identity cards displayed on television establishing the so-called diplomat as an intelligence officer, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, the government's official spokesman, said, "It is very easy to fabricate an identity card, as easy as making a film."

Some conservative lawmakers and press in Iran have accused both the Americans and Sha'lan of being behind Jahani's kidnapping, observing that the warning issued by the group (over alleged Iranian meddling) is the same as that used by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, implying US involvement. "It is interesting to note that so far the group has not kidnapped any Americans or Westerners, but Muslims," one newspaper said.

But unlike the case of Khalil Na'imi, the Iranian attache who was assassinated last year in Baghdad by gunmen who have remained unknown, Jahani's abduction has a mark and destination: Iran. Ghodratollah Alikhani of the majlis' (parliament's) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee told Mehr News Agency that it was highly probable that the US had a hand in the kidnapping. "The US pursues its own political goals through the issue," he said.

Hoseyn Shari'atmadari, appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the managing director of the Tehran daily Keyhan, said on Monday that supporters of the occupation of Iraq were the only people who had a motive to commit the crime. "There is evidence indicating that the kidnappers were US forces," he told the pro-conservative Mehr agency, adding that Iran was the main obstacle preventing the US from realizing its goals in the Middle East and the strongest opponent of the occupation of Iraq.

"This gave the US a significant motive to kidnap the Iranian diplomat. The kidnappers, in a recorded videotape broadcast by the al-Arabiyah network, demanded that Iran refrain from interfering in Iraq's internal affairs, and this is the same accusation that US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Sha'lan made against Iran a few days earlier."

Government spokesman Asefi pointed out, "We have announced one too many times that we are not interfering in Iraq. We are looking forward to the security and stability of Iraq. As far as these accusations, we want to hear from Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi."

In remarks to the press, Allawi has indicated that among all Iraq's neighbors, Iran is the only country that has not invited him officially to visit. "I'm willing to go to Tehran and discuss all issues with our Iranian friends, but on condition I'm invited," he said last weekend, referring to press reports that he had received an invitation but turned it down. (On Tuesday, Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA, quoted Kamal Kharrazi, Iran's foreign affairs minister, as saying an invitation had been sent to Allawi.)

Since the renewal of fighting between the Mehdi Army and the US-led coalition forces, Iran has constantly and vigorously taken the side of the rebel cleric, accusing the Americans of "slaughtering innocent Iraqi Muslims and deliberately destroying Shi'ite holy places".

The daily Keyhan, which speaks for Khamenei, wrote on Monday that Sha'lan was a "dyed-in-the-wool Ba'athist whose hands are dipped deep in the innocent blood of Iraqi and Iranian Muslims", and accused him of being "hand-picked by the American occupiers for his services to the CIA".

According to the hardline newspaper, the Americans and the British had moved Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Shi'ites' highest religious authority, away from Najaf to facilitate the "slaughter" of "unprotected" Iraqi Shi'ites and Muslims. The Iranian-born Sistani is suffering from heart problems and flew to London last week for medical treatment.

Writing in the pro-conservative English-language daily Tehran Times on Tuesday, Hasan Hamidzadeh said, "The recent provocative remarks by the Iraqi interior minister and defense minister as well as the governor of Najaf against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which are only meant to serve the occupiers, encouraged the terrorist groups to kidnap the Iranian diplomat. Unfortunately, this dangerous move took place at a time when certain members of the Iraqi interim government paved the grounds for such a move through their uncalculated remarks, which were a far cry from diplomatic norms."

Tehran is also angry that the Americans helped members of the Mujahideen Khalq Organization, the group that is based in Iraq and served the toppled Saddam's regime fighting Iran, being granted the status of war prisoners and thus covered by the Geneva Conventions, despite the fact that the organization is categorized as a terrorist group by the US.

To complicate the tense atmosphere further, Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, was in Iran at the very time that a warrant for his arrest was issued in Baghdad this week on charges of illegal currency dealings.

Once the darling of the Pentagon, Chalabi, 59, was abandoned abruptly by his US backers after the CIA accused him more than a month ago of having passed on to the Iranians the vital information that the agency had broken Iran's highly secret communications code.

Not only is Chalabi accused of fraud and dealing in currency, Jordan also wants him in connection with the bankruptcy of Patra Bank in 1992, in which some US$20 million went missing. Chalabi has been convicted in absentia and given a lengthy jail term.

As if all these charges are not enough, the former banker, who comes from a prominent Shi'ite family, is also known for his staunch opposition to both Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special envoy for Iraq on the one hand, and Allawi on the other.

Sources in the Iraqi interim government also suspect that Chalabi is helping fund the Mehdi Army and serving as an intermediary between Tehran and Muqtada.

According to most political analysts, what Sha'lan has said against Tehran translates the general belief of most Iraqi officials, including some Shi'ite members of government. This might explain the sudden hardening of Tehran's attitude toward Allawi's interim government.

"Sha'lan's opinion is shared by almost all members of the government," one contact told Asia Times Online, adding, on condition of anonymity, that some of the clerical leadership in Iran close to Khamenei, such as in the Revolutionary Guards and in his own secret services, are "doing their best to prevent a new, democratic and secular political order contrary to theirs emerging in Iraq".

According to Iranian journalists, Allawi's recent visit to Najaf and his call on Muqtada to lay down arms means that the conflict in Iraq is becoming "Iraqized", meaning pitting Iraqis against Iraqis. "But the end losers would be the Iraqi Shi'ites," one Tehran journalist told Asia Times Online.

To make matter worse, the Iraqi police have raided the offices of IRNA in Baghdad and arrested Mostafa Darban, the bureau chief, and three Iraqi colleagues. Though there has been no official explanation from Iraqi authorities, sources told Asia Times Online that the measure could be related to the fighting in Najaf, as the Iranian media have taken a strong position in favor of Muqtada, deliberately ignoring that he refuses to stop hostilities."

Iraq deployment makes Australia a terrorist target: Iran. 12/08/2004. ABC News Online

Iraq deployment makes Australia a terrorist target: Iran. 12/08/2004. ABC News Online: "Iraq deployment makes Australia a terrorist target: Iran
Iran says Australia is a terrorist target because it is part of the occupying force in Iraq.

The secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Hassan Rowhani, says Australia is less popular in the Middle East because of its involvement in the United States-led coalition.

"All the groups that now are involved in terrorist acts in Iraq seem to take all the groups that are participating in helping with the occupying forces as the targets of their attacks," he said.

Dr Rowhani had talks in Canberra today with Prime Minister John Howard and the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

He says Iran sees Australia as a friend, but public opinion in the Middle East has turned against any country involved in the occupation of Iraq.

He says Australia should note that Spain increased its standing by withdrawing its troops from Iraq."

U.S. Citizen woth no Papers Arrested in Iran while walking to Turkey

US News Article | Reuters.com: "Man Claiming to Be U.S. Citizen Arrested in Iran
Wed Aug 11, 2004 12:10 PM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has arrested a man who claims to be a U.S. citizen after he tried to enter the country illegally from one of its eastern neighbors, a senior interior ministry official said on Wednesday.
U.S. visitors to Iran are rare but are not barred from traveling to the Islamic Republic provided they obtain a visa beforehand.

"A person was arrested on the eastern borders who claims to be an American. He doesn't have any identification papers," Deputy Interior Minister Ali Asghar Ahmadi told Reuters.

Eastern Iran borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Iran maintains a heavy security presence in the region which is a major conduit for opium smugglers and a route often used by al Qaeda and Taliban members fleeing from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Citing an unnamed provincial official in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan state, the ISNA students news agency said the man was detained by security forces on Tuesday after crossing the Pakistani border apparently en route to Turkey.

"It makes no difference to us what nationality he has, the important thing is he entered our soil illegally," the official told ISNA.

Washington severed diplomatic ties with Tehran in 1980 shortly after radical Islamic students seized the U.S. embassy and held 52 hostages for 444 days."