Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Israel, Iran Trade Threats As FBI Investigates Spying (washingtonpost.com)

Israel, Iran Trade Threats As FBI Investigates Spying (washingtonpost.com): "Israel, Iran Trade Threats As FBI Investigates Spying
U.S. Ally Said to Have Received Documents on Tehran

By Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 30, 2004; Page A18

JERUSALEM, Aug. 29 -- Israel and Iran traded significantly escalated threats of military attacks in recent months as the FBI investigated allegations that a Pentagon official passed secret U.S. policy information about Iran to Israeli authorities.

Israel has warned that it could launch strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities to thwart the country's advancing weapons program. In response, Iranian Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said earlier this month: "If Israel should dare to attack our nuclear installations, we will come down on its head like a heavy hammer crushing its skull."

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Israeli officials have expressed more concern about the danger Iran poses and have been more emboldened in their threats to quash it. But the espionage allegations, which surfaced Friday, prompted a wave of vehement denials, political angst and disbelief among Israeli officials, intelligence experts, diplomats and other political analysts.

"It's hard to see this as such an issue of controversy or disagreement that Israel would say, 'Break all the rules because we have to find out what they're doing,' " said Yossi Alpher, a former official in the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency.

The FBI is investigating whether Lawrence A. Franklin, a career analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency who specializes in Iran, gave classified information to two lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC, according to sources. U.S. officials said the information, which included the draft of a presidential directive on U.S. policies toward Iran, was then given to Israeli officials. AIPAC has denied any wrongdoing and said its employees were cooperating with the inquiry.

Newsweek magazine reported on its Web site Sunday that FBI agents had monitored a conversation between an Israeli Embassy official and an AIPAC lobbyist at lunch nearly 18 months ago. Another American, later identified as Franklin, "walked in" during the session, according to the report. At the time the FBI was looking into possible Israeli espionage, Newsweek said.

The investigation is the second in recent months involving allegations of Israeli espionage against an ally. In July, a New Zealand court found two Israeli men, accused of being agents for the Mossad, guilty of attempting to forge New Zealand passports. Israeli officials denied that the men were members of the Mossad, but New Zealand's prime minister announced diplomatic sanctions against Israel and demanded an apology.

Michael Oren, an Israeli historian, said Israel would have very little to gain by spying on the United States "because the relationship is so open and giving."

"Israel and the United States see very much eye to eye on the Iran threat, and the intelligence cooperation is extremely close -- it's on an unprecedented level," Oren said. "Both countries perceive Iran's future acquisition of nuclear weapons as a grave threat to the region and the world, and both are committed to trying to prevent Iran from going nuclear."

For months, Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, have warned Iran that Israel was prepared to take what Mofaz called "the necessary steps" to eliminate its nuclear capability. In 1981, Israeli bombers destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in an effort to curtail then-President Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program.

In recent weeks, Israel and Iran have stepped up their rhetoric. Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani told al-Jazeera Arab television network this month that "Iran is not Iraq -- we will not sit by idly if our nuclear reactor's installations are attacked."

Israeli defense and intelligence officials have said Iran's nuclear weapons development program, coupled with its Shihab-3 missile, which is capable of striking Israel, represent the most significant threat to Israel.

In a simulated test last Friday off the Californian coast, Israel's Arrow anti-ballistic missile system, which is designed to destroy or intercept short- and medium-range missiles, failed to stop a Shihab-3 and a Syrian Scud D, according to Israeli defense officials.

Analysts also said that because of AIPAC's alleged involvement, the Franklin case, if proved, could have a more damaging impact on U.S.-Israeli relations than the case of Jonathan J. Pollard, a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst who admitted to spying for Israel in 1987. Analysts said the case could also have a major impact on AIPAC. The group has 65,000 members "at the forefront of the most vexing issues facing Israel today: stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, fighting terrorism and achieving peace," according to its Web site.

"The insinuation that AIPAC, an American Jewish lobby, is engaged in espionage is in some ways worse than Pollard, who as a single individual could be described as off-balance," said Alpher, the former Mossad official.

Equally damaging could be the perception that Israeli and American Jews are wielding disproportionate influence on U.S. foreign policy, said Oren, the historian.

"There's a convention going on in New York," he said, referring to the Republican National Convention, "and the canard has been out there for a long time that Israel and Israel's supporters and the neo-conservatives in the Defense Department have manipulated U.S. foreign policy, especially on Iraq, to serve Israeli purposes, and this would tend to substantiate that canard.""

Iran's Gholam Shire'i: Impeachment, a legal right of Majlis

Iran's Gholam Shire'i: Impeachment, a legal right of Majlis Persian Journal Latest Iran News, news Tehran Iranian News persian news web site sport irani news iranians site farsi women sport woman, newspaper football: " Iran News

Iran majlis speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel known as Gholam Shire'i in majlis here Tuesday referred to ministers' impeachment as the legal right of Majlis and said that it does not indicate any conflict with the government.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of Majlis open session on Tuesday and in response to a question about the impeachment of the Road and Transportation Minister Ahmad Khorram, Gholam Shire'i added that impeachment is a way for exchange of views between the Majlis and the government.

Concerning the prospect of Majlis giving a vote of confidence to Khorram once more, he said, "first of all we have to hear his explanations, given that it is out of question to make prejudgment on the issue before assessing the justifications expected to be presented by the ministry of road and transportation."

Gholam Shire'i further said that this is neither the first impeachment on Majlis agenda, nor will it be the last one."

IHT: Iran arrests suspected nuclear spies

IHT: Iran arrests suspected nuclear spies: "Teheran aide accuses an opposition group

TEHRAN Iran's intelligence minister, Ali Yunessi, said Tuesday that "several people" had been arrested for spying on the country's nuclear program, the official news agency IRNA reported.

Yunessi said those arrested "were sending information on Iran's nuclear activities abroad," but he did not say when the arrests took place.

Referring to the People's Mujahedeen, Iran's main armed opposition group, which is based in Iraq, he said the "Monafeqin," or hypocrites, "played the main role in transferring the information."

The political wing of the People's Mujahedeen, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, first began disclosing information on the nuclear activities of the clerical regime in mid-2002.

Yunessi referred to a series of news conferences held by the group in Washington before the start of a major investigation by the UN nuclear monitoring group, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The group had disclosed the presence of an undeclared enrichment facility at Natanz in the center of the Islamic republic, asserting that the site was part of a nuclear weapons drive. Iran has since allowed tough UN inspections, and insists it is merely trying to produce fuel for its atomic energy program. The government denies it is developing weapons of mass destruction.

Subsequent inspections of Natanz by the atomic energy agency disclosed traces of highly-enriched uranium - possibly weapons-grade - which Iran contends came into the country on equipment bought on the black market.

That question remains one of the main outstanding issues for the atomic energy agency, which is due to hold fresh discussions on Iran beginning Sept. 13.

More recently, the People's Mujahedeen has asserted that Iran was seeking to cover up a biological weapons plant at Lavizan in Tehran where, satellite images showed, buildings had been razed and topsoil removed.

The atomic energy agency has since inspected the site, and results from soil samples taken there are expected in coming weeks.

Yunessi was speaking to reporters during "government week," when ministers give an account of their performance in office.

"The department of counterespionage in the Intelligence Ministry possesses the most modern technology and controls the infiltration of foreign spying services," he said, adding that in total "tens of spies in all domains" had been picked up. Yunessi also accused the United States and European secret services of unsuccessfully using former Qaeda operatives against the Islamic republic. The minister told reporters that elements that were no longer a part of Al Qaeda "were infiltrated by intelligence services from America, Europe and even the region.""

Iran's Rafsanjani ready to stand again for presidency : HindustanTimes.com

Iran's Rafsanjani ready to stand again for presidency : HindustanTimes.com: "Iran's Rafsanjani says ready to stand again for presidency
Agence France-Presse
Tehran, August 31

Powerful former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has again refused to rule out standing again for the presidency in elections next year, press reports said on Tuesday.
"If my presence is considered necessary for the regime and fore the revolution, I will not hesitate for a single moment," Rafsanjani was quoted as saying in a meeting with a conservative group.

The charismatic cleric served as president from 1989 to 1997, but remains one of the most powerful figures in the Islamic republic. Often classed as a "pragmatic conservative", he is currently head of the Expediency Council, Iran's top political arbitration body.

The second and final term of Iran's current president, Mohammad Khatami, ends in June 2005. The Iranian constitution only bars politicians from serving more than two terms consecutively.

Recent weeks have seen increased speculation over who will contest the polls next year. The embattled reformist movement is seeking to convince former prime minister Mirhossein Mussavi to be their candidate.

On the conservative side, potential candidates include former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, now an advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei. Other names cited include to national security official Hassan Rowhani and former state media chief Ali Larijani."

Iran's Rafsanjani ready to stand again for presidency : HindustanTimes.com

Iran's Rafsanjani ready to stand again for presidency : HindustanTimes.com: "Iran's Rafsanjani says ready to stand again for presidency
Agence France-Presse
Tehran, August 31

Powerful former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has again refused to rule out standing again for the presidency in elections next year, press reports said on Tuesday.
"If my presence is considered necessary for the regime and fore the revolution, I will not hesitate for a single moment," Rafsanjani was quoted as saying in a meeting with a conservative group.

The charismatic cleric served as president from 1989 to 1997, but remains one of the most powerful figures in the Islamic republic. Often classed as a "pragmatic conservative", he is currently head of the Expediency Council, Iran's top political arbitration body.

The second and final term of Iran's current president, Mohammad Khatami, ends in June 2005. The Iranian constitution only bars politicians from serving more than two terms consecutively.

Recent weeks have seen increased speculation over who will contest the polls next year. The embattled reformist movement is seeking to convince former prime minister Mirhossein Mussavi to be their candidate.

On the conservative side, potential candidates include former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, now an advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei. Other names cited include to national security official Hassan Rowhani and former state media chief Ali Larijani."

Iran says it arrested several nuclear spies
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

TEHRAN, Iran
Iran said Tuesday it has arrested dozens of spies, including several people who passed the country's nuclear secrets to Iran's enemies, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi did not identify those arrested but said members of the armed opposition group Mujahedeen Khalq, played the main role.

"The Intelligence Ministry has arrested several spies who were transferring Iran's nuclear secrets out of the country," IRNA quoted Yunesi as saying. He did not provide further details.

"The hypocrites (Mujahedeen) had the leading role in passing information (about Iran's nuclear facilities) and have already said they were proud of spying against Iran," Yunesi was quoted as saying.

The Mujahedeen Khalq claim they were the first to break a story in August 2003 that Iran was secretly developing a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, central Iran. But Tehran says it had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, of the Natanz facility months before the Mujahedeen made their announcement. The IAEA has confirmed Tehran's version.

The group, which seeks to topple Iran's ruling Islamic establishment through the use of force, remains on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations. However, fighters from the armed group who are under U.S. military guard in Iraq have been granted protection as noncombatants.

Iran has repeatedly said it would not give up its nuclear program, including the right to develop the whole nuclear fuel cycle - from extracting uranium ore to enriching it to be used as fuel in nuclear reactors - but was ready to provide "guarantees" it won't build atomic weapons.

Washington claims the Iranian nuclear program is aimed at building atomic weapons, but Tehran says is directed at generating electricity.



Iran becomes US election issue

BBC NEWS | Americas | Iran becomes US election issue: "Iran becomes US election issue


By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East Analyst
The issue of Iran has unexpectedly become an issue in the US presidential election.

The Natanz facility in Iran where centrifuges might be assembled (Image: DigitalGlobe)
While the Bush administration wants the UN Security Council to punish Iran for alleged deceit over its nuclear programme, President Bush's Democrat rival, John Kerry, is ready to offer Iran a deal.

With just two months to go before the US presidential election, both camps are making global leadership a key issue.

A theme of the Republican convention in New York is that Americans will be safer with George Bush in the White House than if his Democratic challenger, Senator Kerry, were to win in November.

Democrats fight back

In a speech on Monday, Mr Kerry's running mate, John Edwards, attacked President Bush for mishandling the war in Iraq and virtually abandoning Afghanistan.

Some US experts have used the term 'grand bargain' to mean that the full range of issues... would be put on the table. If agreement could be reached, diplomatic relations would be resumed

A Kerry administration would be as firmly opposed to a nuclear-armed Iran as the Bush administration is - but the two differ significantly over Iran should be handled.

Mr Edwards offered Iran a deal - a "great bargain" as he called it.

It could keep its nuclear power plants provided it gave up nuclear fuel.

By this means, America would call Iran's bluff - and maintain a united front with its European allies.

Engagement with Iran

Some US experts have used the term "grand bargain" to mean that the full range of issues on which Tehran and Washington are at odds would be put on the table.

If agreement could be reached, diplomatic relations would be resumed.

Mr Edwards did not endorse that idea, confining himself to the nuclear issue.

But in the debate over whether to isolate Iran or engage with it, the Kerry camp now seems to favour engagement."