Saturday, September 04, 2004

Iran suspends centrifuge programme as UN nuclear team arrives

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Iran suspends centrifuge programme as UN nuclear team arrives

TEHRAN: Five UN nuclear inspectors arrived on Monday to try to confirm whether Iran has stopped building and assembling centrifuges and get answers to a number of outstanding questions that have raised concerns about the Persian’s nuclear programme.

Mohammad Saeedi, a top Iranian nuclear official said the experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived for a series of meetings and inspections.

The inspectors’ visit coincides with a hardening of position by Iranian radicals who have called on their government to defy the UN nuclear agency, expel UN inspectors and resume uranium enrichment. The Iranian government, though, appears determined to stick to a more moderate approach in hopes of avoiding international isolation.

The United States and other nations accuse Iran of having a covert nuclear weapons programme and are pushing the United Nations to impose sanctions. Tehran insists it has only a peaceful nuclear energy programme.

Saeedi said that to win “greater international trust”, Iran stopped building and assembling centrifuges on Friday, as it promised during a one-day visit last week by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

It was the second such promise: Iran said on March 29 that it had already stopped building centrifuges for uranium enrichment. ElBaradei had welcomed the centrifuge announcement and said the inspectors who arrived on Monday would try to verify that all uranium enrichment activities have stopped.

During ElBaradei’s visit, Iran also committed to meeting deadlines on disclosing the source of traces of weapons-grade uranium found here and answering questions on its recently discovered programme to make advanced P-2 centrifuges to enrich uranium, possibly to weapons grade.

Iranian hard-liners have accused ElBaradei of being “America’s agent” and say that by giving in to the IAEA, Iran is giving in to US demands to surrender nuclear technology.

“The only logical option is to resume uranium enrichment, expel IAEA inspectors and withdraw from (the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty) if the IAEA continues to illegally deny Iran its rights,” hard-liner Hossein Shariatmadari wrote in an editorial last week in his newspaper, Kayhan. Shariatmadari is close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters.

Iran says it’s losing its patience and wants IAEA to remove Iran’s nuclear dossier from its agenda by June. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani said last week Iran will “definitely react” if its nuclear dossier is not closed by then, but said, “I don’t think the reaction will be to withdraw from NPT.” —AP"

Haaretz - AIPAC/Franklin Syp Ring Probe Widens

Haaretz - Israel News: "Report: FBI targeting AIPAC members in probe

By Nathan Guttman

NEW YORK - Members of America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have been the target of a broad investigation conducted by the FBI, according to a report published yesterday.

The Washington Post wrote that the probe of Larry Franklin, the Pentagon aide suspected by the FBI of passing classified information to Israel, is just one aspect of an overall investigation and includes members of the largest pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

The FBI has been reluctant to release details on the Franklin case.

Quoting sources familiar with the investigation, the report said the FBI has been running a counter-espionage operation for the past two years against AIPAC members suspected of passing classified information to Israel.

Contrary to a criminal investigation, in which evidence is collected to prepare an indictment, a counter-espionage probe is described as an effort to prevent espionage from being carried out.

According to the report, the FBI suspects that some of the classified information passed to Israel by AIPAC members came from the National Security Agency, the largest and one of the most secretive U.S. intelligence organizations. The NSA is responsible for eavesdroping and electronic intelligence against strategic targets that interest the United States.

The investigation had been reported to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, according to the report.

Sources close to the probe told the newspaper that the Franklin affair arose only in the past two months as part of a broader investigation against AIPAC and included wiretapping and surveillance.

Franklin is suspected of passing classified documents on discussions formulating U.S. policy on Iran to AIPAC members.

The report supports the theory raised by Jewish-Americans and Israelis in Washington last week that previously reported FBI surveillance following a meeting between Naor Gilon of Israel's embassy in Washington with AIPAC's Steve Rosen targeted Rosen, not Gilon.

According to yesterday's report, the FBI has interviewed over the past few days AIPAC officials other than the two mentioned in the Franklin affair, Rosen and Keith Weisman.

AIPAC is making a major effort to avoid responding directly to the allegations and to preserve its position as one of the country's leading political lobbying groups.

This past week, AIPAC held no less than 17 events for those participating in the Republican National Convention in New York. The events reportedly were fully attended, suggesting there is no overt effort being made to avoid the interest group.

AIPAC leadership has managed to rally statements of support from leading members of both parties since the affair broke, and Democratic and Republican senators have been unequivocal in declaring the lobby group's patriotism.

The former leader of the Republican party in the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, went so far as to assert that the investigation was part of a smear campaign against AIPAC.

AIPAC also has managed to rally the Jewish-American community, which at first was hesitant to respond to the affair. At a conference of community leaders earlier this week, no one raised questions about the lobby group's activities and no explanations were sought in the Franklin affair. "

MSNBC - Maloof Quits, AIPAC's Rosen Demands Lawyer

MSNBC - Secrets: Classified Info: Springing a Leak: "Secrets: Classified Info: Springing a Leak

Ron Edmonds / AP
Were they spying? Bush addresses AIPAC in May
By Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff
NewsweekSept 13 issue - One measure of how seriously the Feds are pursuing an investigation into whether a Pentagon analyst leaked secret information to a pro-Israel lobbying group is the fact that FBI agents showed up unannounced at the offices of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington late on the morning of Aug. 27 armed with a search warrant. The bureau could only have obtained the warrant by demonstrating probable cause that AIPAC's offices contained evidence of a crime. Investigators searched the office, took away documents and downloaded data from the computer of Steve Rosen, AIPAC's top foreign-policy expert; they questioned Rosen until he asked to consult a lawyer. AIPAC said it was cooperating with the investigation. But the group said none of its employees received or passed along information they "believed" to be classified.

Law-enforcement sources indicated early last week that arrests in the case might be imminent. But officials later said the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, Va., decided to hold up action to review the politically sensitive investigation. The FBI is trying to determine whether Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin, a veteran defense intelligence expert on Iran who later joined a controversial Pentagon policy office that helped plan and manage the Iraq war, passed info about confidential Bush administration policy deliberations on Iran to two AIPAC officials who happened to be under FBI surveillance. Franklin did not respond to requests for comment from NEWSWEEK.

Intelligence and law-enforcement sources said the investigation was the latest in a series of inquiries going back several years into officials associated with the Pentagon policy bureaucracy headed by Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith. One recently departed Pentagon official, Michael Maloof, whom Feith assigned after 9/11 to set up a two-man team to look for evidence the CIA and other intelligence agencies overlooked connections between Al Qaeda and various states, including Iraq, was investigated for years for security leaks, and eventually lost his top-secret security clearance. Officials in Feith's office also supported the politician Ahmad Chalabi in his machinations to succeed Saddam Hussein; Chalabi's ambitions hit the wall last spring after White House and senior Pentagon officials were briefed on intelligence suggesting that Chalabi had leaked highly confidential info to the Iranian government on U.S. electronic eavesdropping, causing Iranian intelligence to change its secret codes. Chalabi denied the charges. He and other friends of the neocons who staff Feith's office say the AIPAC raids are more evidence of a long vendetta by the CIA and other agencies against Bush loyalists who have questioned the agencies' judgments."

Spy Probe Scans
Neocon-Israel Ties - by Jim Lobe

Spy Probe Scans
Neocon-Israel Ties - by Jim Lobe
: "Spy Probe Scans
Neocon-Israel Ties

by Jim Lobe
The burgeoning scandal over claims that a Pentagon official passed highly classified secrets to a Zionist lobby group appears to be part of a much broader set of FBI and Pentagon investigations of close collaboration between prominent U.S. neoconservatives and Israel dating back some 30 years.

According to knowledgeable sources, who asked to not be identified, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) has been intensively reviewing a series of past counter-intelligence probes that were started against several high-profile neocons but never followed up with prosecutions, to the great frustration of counterintelligence officers, in some cases.

Some of these past investigations involve top current officials, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, whose office appears to be the focus of the most recently disclosed inquiry; and Richard Perle, who resigned as Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman last year.

All three were the subject of a lengthy investigative story by Stephen Green published by in February. Green is the author of two books on U.S.-Israeli relations, including Taking Sides: America's Secret Relations with a Militant Israel, which relies heavily on interviews with former Pentagon and counterintelligence officials.

At the same time, another Pentagon office concerned with the transfer of sensitive military and dual-use technologies has been examining the acquisition, modification and sales of key hi-tech military equipment by Israel obtained from the United States, in some cases with the help of prominent neoconservatives who were then serving in the government.

Some of that equipment has been sold by Israel – which in the last 20 years has become a top exporter of the world's most sophisticated hi-tech information and weapons technology – or by Israeli middlemen, to Russia, China and other potential U.S. strategic rivals. Some of it has also found its way onto the black market, where terrorist groups – possibly including al-Qaeda – obtained bootlegged copies, according to these sources.

Of particular interest in that connection are derivatives of a powerful case-management software called PROMIS that was produced by INSLAW Inc. in the early 1980s and acquired by Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, which then sold its own versions to other foreign intelligence agencies in the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe.

But these versions were modified with a "trap door" that permitted the seller to spy on the buyers' own intelligence files, according to a number of published reports.

A modified version of the software, which is used to monitor and track files on a multitude of databases, is believed to have been acquired by al-Qaeda on the black market in the late 1990s, possibly facilitating the group's global banking and money-laundering schemes, according to a Washington Times story of June 2001.

According to one source, Pentagon investigators believe it possible that al-Qaeda used the software to spy on various U.S. agencies that could have detected or foiled the Sept. 11, 2001 attack.

The FBI is reportedly also involved in the Pentagon's investigation, which is overseen by Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for International Technology Security John A. "Jack" Shaw with the explicit support of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The latest incident is based on allegations that a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) career officer, Larry Franklin – who was assigned in 2001 to work in a special office dealing with Iraq and Iran under Feith – provided highly classified information, including a draft on U.S. policy towards Iran, to two staff members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of Washington's most powerful lobby groups. One or both of the recipients allegedly passed the material to the Israeli embassy.

Franklin has not commented on the allegation, and Israel and AIPAC have strongly denied any involvement and say they are cooperating fully with FBI investigators.

The office in which Franklin has worked since 2001 is dominated by staunch neoconservatives, including Feith himself. Headed by William Luti, a retired Navy officer who worked for DPB member Newt Gingrich when he was speaker of the House of Representatives, it played a central role in building the case for war in Iraq.

Part of the office's strategy included working closely with the Iraqi National Congress (INC) led by now-disgraced exile Ahmed Chalabi, and the DPB members in developing and selectively leaking intelligence analyses that supported the now-discredited thesis that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had close ties to al-Qaeda.

Feith's office enjoyed especially close links with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, to whom it "stovepiped" its analyses without having them vetted by professional intelligence analysts in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the DIA, or the State Department Bureau for Intelligence of Research (INR).

Since the Iraq war, Feith's office has also lobbied hard within the U.S. government for a confrontational posture vis-à-vis Iran and Syria, including actions aimed at destabilizing both governments – policies which, in addition to the ousting of Hussein, have been strongly and publicly urged by prominent, hard-line neoconservatives, such as Perle, Feith and Perle's associate at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Michael Ledeen, among others.

Despite his status as a career officer, Franklin, who is an Iran specialist, is considered both personally and ideologically close to several other prominent neoconservatives, who have also acted in various consultancy roles at the Pentagon, including Ledeen and Harold Rhode, who once described himself as Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz's chief adviser on Islam.

In Dec. 2001, Rhode and Franklin met in Europe with a shadowy Iranian arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, who, along with Ledeen, played a central role in the arms-for-hostages deal involving the Reagan administration, Israel and Iran in the mid-1980s that became known as the "Iran-Contra Affair."

Ledeen set up the more recent meetings that apparently triggered the FBI to launch its investigation, which has intensified in recent months amid reports that Chalabi's INC, which has long been championed by the neoconservatives, has been passing sensitive intelligence to Iran.

Feith has long been an outspoken supporter of Israel's Likud Party, and his former law partner Marc Zell has served as a spokesman in Israel for the Jewish settler movement on the occupied West Bank.

He, Perle and several other like-minded hardliners participated in a task force that called for then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to work for the installation of a friendly government in Baghdad as a means of permanently altering the balance of power in the Middle East in Israel's favor, permitting it to abandon the Oslo peace process, which Feith had publicly opposed.

Previously, Feith served as a Middle East analyst in the National Security Council in the administration of former President Ronald Reagan (1981-89), but was summarily removed from that position in March 1982 because he had been the object of a FBI inquiry into whether he had provided classified material to an official of the Israeli embassy in Washington, according to Green's account.

But Perle, who was then serving as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy (ISP), which, among other responsibilities, had an important say in approving or denying licenses to export sensitive military or dual-use technology abroad, hired him as his "special counsel" and later as his deputy, where he served until 1986, when he left for his law practice with Zell, who had by then moved to Israel.

Also serving under Perle during these years was Stephen Bryen, a former staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the subject of a major FBI investigation in the late 1970s for offering classified documents to an Israeli intelligence officer in the presence of AIPAC's director, according to Green's account, which is backed up by some 500 pages of investigation documents released under a Freedom of Information request some 15 years ago.

Although political appointees decided against prosecution, Bryen was reportedly asked to leave the committee and, until his appointment by Perle in 1981, served as head of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a group dedicated to promoting strategic ties between the United States and Israel and one in which Perle, Feith and Ledeen have long been active.

In his position as Perle's deputy, Bryen created the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA) which enforced regulations regarding technology transfer to foreign countries.

During his tenure, according to one source with personal knowledge of Bryen's work, "the U.S. shut down transfers to western Europe and Japan [which were depicted as too ready to sell them to Moscow] and opened up a back door to Israel" – a pattern that became embarrassingly evident after Perle left office and the current deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, took over in 1987.

Soon, Armitage was raising serious questions about Bryen's approval of sensitive exports to Israel without appropriate vetting by other agencies.

"It is in the interest of U.S. and Israel to remove needless impediments to technological cooperation between them," Feith wrote in Commentary in 1992. "Technologies in the hands of responsible, friendly countries facing military threats, countries like Israel, serve to deter aggression, enhance regional stability and promote peace thereby."

Perle, Ledeen, and Wolfowitz have also been the subject of FBI inquiries, according to Green's account. In 1970, one year after he was hired by Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, an FBI wiretap authorized for the Israeli Embassy picked up Perle discussing classified information with an embassy official, while Wolfowitz was investigated in 1978 for providing a classified document on the proposed sale of a U.S. weapons system to an Arab government to an Israeli official via an AIPAC staffer.

In 1992, when he was serving as undersecretary of defense for policy, Pentagon officials looking into the unauthorized export of classified technology to China, found that Wolfowitz's office was promoting Israel's export of advanced air-to-air missiles to Beijing in violation of a written agreement with Washington on arms re-sales.

The FBI and the Pentagon are reportedly taking a new look at all of these incidents and others to, in the words of a New York Times story Sunday, "get a better understanding of the relationships among conservative officials with strong ties to Israel."

It would be a mistake to see Franklin as the chief target of the current investigation, according to sources, but rather he should be viewed as one piece of a much broader puzzle."

AIPAC's Overt and Covert Ops - by Juan Cole

AIPAC's Overt and Covert Ops - by Juan Cole: "AIPAC's Overt and Covert Ops

by Juan Cole
CBS is reporting that a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst detailed to Undersecretary of Defense for Planning Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans is under FBI investigation for spying for Israel. The person passed to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) confidential documents, including those detailing Bush administration policy toward Iran, and AIPAC then passed them to Israel. There are wiretaps and photographs backing up the FBI case (the FBI agents involved are extremely brave to take this on).

But this espionage case is too narrow. Consider what journalist Jim Lobe wrote about Feith's Office of Special Plans (OSP) and the Pentagon Near East and South Asia (NESA) office:

"[K]ey personnel who worked in both NESA and OSP were part of a broader network of neoconservative ideologues and activists who worked with other Bush political appointees scattered around the national-security bureaucracy to move the country to war, according to retired Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who was assigned to NESA from May 2002 through February 2003. The heads of NESA and OSP were Deputy Undersecretary William Luti and Abram Shulsky, respectively. Other appointees who worked with them in both offices included Michael Rubin, a Middle East specialist previously with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI); David Schenker, previously with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP); and Michael Makovsky; an expert on neocon icon Winston Churchill and the younger brother of David Makovsky, a senior WINEP fellow and former executive editor of pro-Likud Jerusalem Post. Along with Feith, all of the political appointees have in common a close identification with the views of the right-wing Likud Party in Israel."

Karen Kwiatkowski was an eyewitness in NESA, and Lobe reports:

"[S]he recounts one incident in which she helped escort a group of half a dozen Israelis, including several generals, from the first floor reception area to Feith's office. 'We just followed them, because they knew exactly where they were going and moving fast.' When the group arrived, she noted the book which all visitors are required to sign under special regulations that took effect after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. 'I asked his secretary, "Do you want these guys to sign in?" She said, "No, these guys don't have to sign in."' It occurred to her, she said, that the office may have deliberately not wanted to maintain a record of the meeting."

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is a lobbying group that used to support whatever government was in power in Israel, and used to give money evenhandedly inside the U.S. My perception is that during the past decade AIPAC has increasingly tilted to the Likud in Israel, and to the political Right in the United States. In the 1980s, AIPAC set up the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as a pro-Israeli alternative to the Brookings Institution, which it perceived to be insufficiently supportive of Israel. WINEP has largely followed AIPAC into pro-Likud positions, even though its director, Dennis Ross, is more moderate. He is a figurehead, however, serving to disguise the far right character of most of the position papers produced by long-term WINEP staff and by extremist visitors and "associates" (Daniel Pipes and Martin Kramer are among the latter).

WINEP, being a wing of AIPAC, is enormously influential in Washington. State Department and military personnel are actually detailed there to "learn" about "the Middle East"! They would get a far more balanced "education" about the region in any Israeli university, since most Israeli academics are professionals, whereas WINEP is a "think tank" that hires by ideology.

I did some consulting with one U.S. company that had a government contract, and they asked me about WINEP position papers (many of them are just propaganda). When I said I would take them with a grain of salt, the guy said his company had "received direction" to pay a lot of attention to the WINEP material! So discipline is being imposed even on the private sector.

Note that over 80% of American Jews vote Democrat, that the majority of American Jews opposed the Iraq war (more were against it than in the general population), and that American Jews have been enormously important in securing civil liberties for all Americans. Moreover, Israel has been a faithful ally of the U.S. and deserves our support in ensuring its security. The Likudniks like to pretend that they represent American Jewry, but they do not. And they like to suggest that objecting to their policies is tantamount to anti-Semitism, which is sort of like suggesting that if you don't like Chile's former dictator Pinochet, you are bigoted against Latinos.

As can be seen by Lobe's list, WINEP supplies right-wing intellectuals to Republican administrations, who employ their positions to support Likud policies from within the U.S. government. They have the advantage over longtime civil servants in units like the State Department's Intelligence and Research division, insofar as they are politically connected and so have the ear of the top officials.

So, passing a few confidential documents over is a minor affair. Pro-Likud intellectuals established networks linking Defense and the national security advisers of Vice President Dick Cheney, gaining enormous influence over policy by cherry-picking and distorting intelligence to make a case for war on Saddam Hussein. And their ulterior motive was to remove the most powerful Arab military from the scene, not because it was an active threat to Israel (it wasn't) but because it was a possible deterrent to Likud plans for aggressive expansion (at the least, they want half of the West Bank, permanently).

It should be admitted that the American Likud could not make U.S. policy on its own. Its members had to make convincing arguments to Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush himself. But they were able to make those arguments, by distorting intelligence, channeling Ahmed Chalabi junk, and presenting Big Ideas to men above them that signally lacked such ideas. (Like the idea that the road to peace in Jerusalem ran through Baghdad. Ha!)

It was these WINEP and AIPAC-linked U.S. Likud backers in the Defense Department who had the Iraqi army dissolved as soon as Saddam was overthrown. This step threw Iraq into chaos and led to the deaths of nearly a thousand U.S. servicemen so far, since an Iraq without an army would inevitably depend on the U.S. military. But with the Iraqi army gone, and with Egypt and Jordan neutralized, Syria was left the only country anywhere near Israel that could make active trouble for Sharon if he completely screwed over the Palestinians. And Syria was now weak and isolated. So Sharon has had a free hand in his expansionist aggression. And, because the U.S. public has been preoccupied with Iraq, the Likud could pursue its annexation of West Bank land and its expropriation of even more Palestinians without anyone over here even noticing. It is the best of all possible worlds for the heirs of Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

The Likud policies of reversing Oslo and stealing people's land and making their lives hell has produced enormous amounts of terrorism against Israel, and the Likudniks have cleverly turned that to their political advantage. Aggression and annexation is necessary, they argue, because there is terrorism. Some of them now openly speak of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians, using the same argument. But when the Oslo peace process looked like it would go somewhere, terrorism tapered off (it did not end, but then peace had not been achieved).

The drawback for the U.S. in all this is that U.S. government backing for Sharon's odious policies makes it hated in the Muslim world. (Note that Muslims who oppose Israeli aggression are often tagged as "terrorists" by the U.S. government, but right-wing Jews who go to Palestine to colonize it, walking around with Uzi machine guns and sometimes shooting down civilians, are not "terrorists.") This lack of balance is one big reason that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri hit the U.S. on Sept. 11. In fact, bin Laden wanted to move up the operation to punish the U.S. for supporting Sharon's crackdown on the second Intifada.

Likud apologists have carefully planted the false story that al-Qaeda did not care about Palestine, but that is absurd. Bin Laden always complained about the occupation of the three holy cities (Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, the first two because of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and the third under Israeli occupation). When bin Laden came back from Afghanistan to Jidda in 1989, his first sermon at the local mosque was about the Israeli repression of Palestinians during the first Intifada.

Now the U.S.' occupation of Iraq is making it even more hated in the Muslim world. It is a policy hatched in part by AIPAC, WINEP, and their associated "thinkers." The cynical might suggest that they actively want the U.S. involved in a violent struggle with Muslims, to make sure that the U.S. remains anti-Palestinian and so will permit Israeli expansion.

All this can happen because there is a vacuum in U.S. political discourse. A handful of special interests in the United States virtually dictate congressional policy on some issues. With regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and a few allies have succeeded in imposing complete censorship on both houses of Congress. No senator or representative dares make a speech on the floor of his or her institution critical of Israeli policy, even though the Israeli government often violates international law and UN Security Council resolutions (it would violate more such resolutions, except that the resolutions never got passed because only one NSC member, the U.S., routinely vetoes them on behalf of Tel Aviv.) As the Labor Party in Israel has been eclipsed by the Likud coalition, which includes many proto-fascist groups, this subservience has yoked Washington to foreign politicians who privately favor ethnic cleansing and/or aggressive warfare for the purpose of annexing the territory of neighbors.

On the rare occasion when a brave member of Congress dares stand up to this unrelenting AIPAC tyranny, that person is targeted for unelection in the next congressional campaign, with big money directed by AIPAC and/or its analogues into the coffers of the senator's or congressman's opponent. Over and over again, AIPAC has shaped the U.S. Congress in this way, so successfully that no one even dares speak out any more.

AIPAC is not all that rich or powerful, but politics in the U.S. is often evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Because many races are very close, any little extra support can help change the outcome. AIPAC can provide that little bit. Moreover, most Americans couldn't care less about the Middle East or its intractable problems, whereas the staffers at AIPAC are fanatics. If some congressman from southern Indiana knows he can pick up even a few thousand dollars and some good will from AIPAC, he may as well, since his constituents don't care anyway. That there is no countervailing force to AIPAC allows it to be effective. (That is one reason that pro-Likud American activists often express concern about the rise of the Muslim-American community and the possibility that it may develop an effective lobby.) Moreover, AIPAC leverages its power by an alliance with the Christian Right, which has adopted a bizarre ideology of "Christian Zionism." It holds that the sooner the Palestinians are ethnically cleansed, the sooner Christ will come back. Without millions of these Christian Zionist allies, AIPAC would be much less influential and effective.

The Founding Fathers of the United States deeply feared that a foreign government might gain this level of control over a branch of the United States government, and their fears have been vindicated.

The situation has reached comedic proportions. Congress is always drafting letters to the president, based on AIPAC templates, demanding that lopsided U.S. policy in favor of Israel be revised to be even more in favor of Israel. U.S. policy recently changed to endorse the expansion of Israeli colonies in Palestinian, West Bank territory.

Where Israel is in the right, this situation obviously is innocuous. The United States should protect Israel from aggressive attack, if necessary. United Nations members are pledged to collective security, i.e., to protecting any member nation from aggression at the hands of another. But given that Israel is a nuclear power with a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction; given that Egypt and Jordan have long-lived peace treaties with Israel; and given that Syria and Lebanon are small, weak powers, there is not in fact any serious military threat to Israel in its immediate neighborhood. In contrast, Israel launched wars against neighbors in 1956, 1967, and 1982 (all of which it won so easily as to bring into question the necessity for the wars in the first place if they were defensive), and has since 1967 been assiduously colonizing Palestinian land that it militarily occupied – all the while attempting to avoid becoming responsible for the Palestinian populations on that land. This latter policy has poisoned the entire world.

AIPAC currently has a project to shut up academics such as myself, the same way it has shut up Congress, through congressional legislation mandating "balance" (i.e., pro-Likud stances) in Middle East programs at American universities. How long the U.S. public will allow itself to be spied on and pushed around like this is a big question. And, with the rise of international terrorism targeting the U.S. in part over these issues, the fate of the country hangs in the balance.

If al-Qaeda succeeds in another big attack, it could well tip the country over into military rule, as Gen. Tommy Franks has suggested. That is, the fate of the Republic is in danger. And the danger comes from two directions, not just one. It comes from radical extremists in the Muslim world, who must be fought. But it also comes from radical extremists in Israel, who have key allies in the U.S. and whom the U.S. government actively supports and against whom influential Americans are afraid to speak out.

If I had been in power on Sept. 11, I'd have called up Sharon and told him he was just going to have to withdraw to 1967 borders, or face the full fury of the United States. Israel would be much better off inside those borders, anyway. It can't absorb 3 million Palestinians and retain its character, and it can't continue to hold 3 million Palestinians as stateless hostages without making itself inhumane and therefore un-Jewish. And then I'd have thrown everything the U.S. had at al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and frog-marched Bin Laden off to justice, and rebuilt Afghanistan to ensure that al-Qaeda was permanently denied a base there. Iraq, well, Iraq was contained.

Fomenting a War on Iran

Here is my take on the Lawrence Franklin espionage scandal in the Pentagon.

It is an echo of the one-two punch secretly planned by the pro-Likud faction in the Department of Defense. First, the United States would take out Iraq, and then Iran. David Wurmser, a key member of the group, also wanted Syria included. These pro-Likud intellectuals concluded that 9/11 would give them carte blanche to use the Pentagon as Israel's Gurkha regiment, fighting elective wars on behalf of Tel Aviv (not wars that really needed to be fought, but wars that the Likud coalition thought it would be nice to see fought so as to increase Israel's ability to annex land and act aggressively, especially if someone else's boys did the dying).

Franklin is a reserve Air Force colonel and former Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst. He was an attaché at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv at one point, which some might now see as suspicious. After the Cold War ended, Franklin became concerned with Iran as a threat to Israel and the U.S., and learned a little Persian (not very much – I met him once at a conference and he could only manage a few halting phrases of Persian). Franklin has a strong Brooklyn accent and says he is "from the projects." I was told by someone at the Pentagon that he is not Jewish, despite his strong association with the predominantly Jewish neoconservatives. I know that he is very close to Paul Wolfowitz. He seems a canny man and a political operator, and if he gave documents to AIPAC it was not an act of simple stupidity, as some observers have suggested. It was part of some clever scheme that became too clever by half.

Franklin moved over to the Pentagon from DIA, where he became the Iran expert, working for Bill Luti and Undersecretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith. He was the "go-to" person on Iran for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and for Feith. This situation is pretty tragic, since Franklin is not a real Iranist. His main brief appears to have been to find ways to push a policy of overthrowing its government (apparently once Iraq had been taken care of). This project has been pushed by the shadowy eminence grise Michael Ledeen for many years, and Franklin coordinated with Ledeen in some way. Franklin was also close to Harold Rhode, a longtime Middle East specialist in the Defense Department who has cultivated far right pro-Likud cronies for many years, more or less establishing a cell within the Department of Defense.

The UPI via Dawn reports that "another under-investigation official, Mr. Rhode, 'practically lived out of [Ahmed] Chalabi's office.' Intelligence sources said that CIA operatives observed Mr. Rhode as being constantly on his cell phone to Israel, discussing U.S. plans, military deployments, political projects and a discussion of Iraq assets."

Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen and Paul Glastris have just published a piece in the Washington Monthly that details Franklin's meetings with corrupt Iranian arms dealer and con man Manucher Ghorbanifar, who had in the 1980s played a key role in the Iran-contra scandal. (For more on the interviews with Ghorbanifar, see Laura Rozen's weblog). It is absolutely key that the meetings were attended also by Rhode, Ledeen and the head of Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, Nicolo Pollari, as well as Rome's Minister of Defense, Antonio Martino.

The right-wing government of corrupt billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, including Martino, was a big supporter of an Iraq war. Moreover, we know that the forged documents falsely purporting to show Iraqi uranium purchases from Niger originated with a former SISMI agent. Watch the reporting of Josh Marshall for more on this SISMI/Ledeen/Rhode connection.

But journalist Matthew Yglesias has already tipped us to a key piece of information. The Niger forgeries also try to implicate Iran. Indeed, the idea of a joint Iraq/Iran nuclear plot was so far-fetched that it is what initially made the Intelligence and Research division of the U.S. State Department suspicious of the forgeries, even before the discrepancies of dates and officials in Niger were noticed. Yglesias quotes from the Senate report on the alleged Iraqi attempt to buy uranium from Niger:

"The INR [that's State Department intelligence] nuclear analyst told the Committee staff that the thing that stood out immediately about the [forged] documents was that a companion document – a document included with the Niger documents that did not relate to uranium – mentioned some type of military campaign against major world powers. The members of the alleged military campaign included both Iraq and Iran and was, according to the documents, being orchestrated through the Nigerien [note: that's not the same as Nigerian] Embassy in Rome, which all struck the analyst as 'completely implausible.' Because the stamp on this document matched the stamp on the uranium document [the stamp was supposed to establish the documents bona fides], the analyst thought that all of the documents were likely suspect. The analyst was unaware at the time of any formatting problems with the documents or inconsistencies with the names or dates."

Journalist Eric Margolis notes of SISMI:

"SISMI has long been notorious for far right, even neo-fascist, leanings. According to Italian judicial investigators, SISMI was deeply involved in numerous plots against Italy’s democratic government, including the 1980 Bologna train station terrorist bombing that left 85 dead and 200 injured. Senior SISMI officers were in cahoots with celebrated swindler Roberto Calvi, the neo-fascist P2 Masonic Lodge, other extreme rightist groups trying to destabilize Italy, the Washington neocon operative, Michael Ledeen, and the Iran-Contra conspirators. SISMI works hand in glove with U.S., British and Israeli intelligence. In the 1960s and 70s, SISMI reportedly carried out numerous operations for CIA, including bugging the Vatican, the Italian president’s palace, and foreign embassies. Italy’s civilian intelligence service, SISDE, associated with Italy’s political center-left, has long been a bitter rival of SISMI. After CIA rejected the Niger file, it was eagerly snapped up by VP Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, who were urgently seeking any reason, no matter how specious, to invade Iraq. Cheney passed the phony data to Bush, who used it in his January 2003 address to the nation in spite of warnings from CIA. . . ."

So Franklin, Ledeen, and Rhode, all of them pro-Likud operatives, just happen to be meeting with SISMI (the proto-fascist purveyor of the false Niger uranium story about Iraq and the alleged Iran-Iraq plot against the rest of the world) and corrupt Iranian businessman and would-be revolutionary Ghorbanifar in Europe. The most reasonable conclusion is that they were conspiring together about the Next Campaign after Iraq, which they had already begun setting in train, which is to get Iran.

But now The Jerusalem Post reveals that at least one of the meetings was quite specific with regard to an attempt to torpedo better US/Iran relations:

"The purpose of the meeting with Ghorbanifar was to undermine a pending deal that the White House had been negotiating with the Iranian government. At the time, Iran had considered turning over five al-Qaeda operatives in exchange for Washington dropping its support for Mujahadeen Khalq, an Iraq-based rebel Iranian group listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department."

The neoconservatives have some sort of shadowy relationship with the Mujahadeen-e Khalq Organization, or MEK. Presumably its leaders have secretly promised to recognize Israel if they ever succeed in overthrowing the ayatollahs in Iran. When the U.S. recently categorized the MEK as a terrorist organization, there were howls of outrage from "scholars" associated with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, such as ex-Trotskyite Patrick Clawson and Daniel Pipes. MEK is a terrorist organization by any definition of the term, having blown up innocent people in the course of its struggle against the Khomeini government. (MEK is a cult-like mixture of Marx and Islam). The MEK had allied with Saddam, who gave them bases in Iraq from which to hit Iran. When the U.S. overthrew Saddam, it raised the question of what to do with the MEK. The pro-Likud faction in the Pentagon wanted to go on developing their relationship with the MEK and using it against Tehran.

So it transpires that the Iranians were willing to give up 5 key al-Qaeda operatives, whom they had captured, in return for MEK members.

Franklin, Rhode and Ledeen conspired with Ghorbanifar and SISMI to stop that trade. It would have led to better U.S.-Iran relations, which they wanted to forestall, and it would have damaged their protégés, the MEK.

Since high al-Qaeda operatives like Saif al-Adil and possibly even Saad bin Laden might know about future operations, or the whereabouts of bin Laden, for Franklin and Rhode to stop the trade grossly endangered the United States.

The FBI has evidence that Franklin passed a draft presidential directive on Iran to AIPAC, which then passed it to the Israelis. The FBI is construing these actions as espionage or something close to it. But that is like getting Al Capone on tax evasion. Franklin was not giving the directive to AIPAC in order to provide them with information. He was almost certainly seeking feedback from them on elements of it. He was asking, "Do you like this? Should it be changed in any way?" And, he might also have been prepping AIPAC for the lobbying campaign scheduled for early in 2005, when Congress will have to be convinced to authorize military action, or at least covert special operations, against Iran. AIPAC probably passed the directive over to Israel for the same reason – not to inform, but to seek input. That is, AIPAC and Israel were helping write U.S. policy toward Iran, just as they had played a key role in fomenting the Iraq war.

With both Iraq and Iran in flames, the Likud Party could do as it pleased in the Middle East without fear of reprisal. This means it could expel the Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan, and perhaps just give Gaza back to Egypt to keep Cairo quiet. Annexing southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, the waters of which Israel has long coveted, could also be undertaken with no consequences, they probably think, once Hizbullah in Lebanon could no longer count on Iranian support. The closed character of the economies of Iraq and Iran, moreover, would end, allowing American, Italian and British companies to make a killing after the wars (so they thought).

Franklin's movements reveal the contours of a right-wing conspiracy of warmongering and aggression, an orgy of destruction, for the benefit of the Likud Party, of Silvio Berlusconi's business in the Middle East, and of the neoconservative Right in the United States. It isn't about spying. It is about conspiring to conscript the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign power or powers.'

Khatami opposes Iran's intervention in the Iraqi internal affairs

Khatami opposes Iran's intervention in the Iraqi internal affairs: "Khatami opposes Iran's intervention in the Iraqi internal affairs
Iraq-Iran, Politics, 9/2/2004
The Iranian President Muhammad Khatami said yesterday he opposes any intervention by his country in the affairs of Iraq, considering that such an intervention will be 'an insult' for the Iraqi people.

The Iranian official news agency quoted Khatami as saying in a meeting with the deputy Iraqi prime minister Barham Saleh that 'any inappropriate intervention in the internal affairs of Iraq and changing attitudes of people will be a great insult to the Iraqi people.'

The Iranian news agency said that Khatami sought to make assurances to Saleh by asserting the ' common security of the countries of the region and thereby instability in Iraq threatens peace in these countries.'"

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage: "Iran Plans to Launch Satellite by May 2005
Thu 2 September, 2004 13:01

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said Thursday it would launch its first satellite into space by May 2005, state television reported.
Mohammad Fathi, head of Iran's Scientific and Industrial Research Center, said the Mesbah (lantern) satellite was domestically produced and would be used for weather forecasting and locating natural resources.
'The Mesbah satellite will pave the ground for Iran to build other satellites in the future,' Fathi said.
State television said it would be cube-shaped, weigh 134 pounds and would be placed into orbit at an altitude of around 560 miles.
Iran had announced in January that it would be the first Islamic country to go into space and was developing its own launch pad for the project, but did not elaborate.
Thursday's television report did not say where the satellite would be launched from."

AP Wire | 09/02/2004 | Source: al-Qaida Suspect Came From Iran

AP Wire | 09/02/2004 | Source: al-Qaida Suspect Came From Iran
"Source: al-Qaida Suspect Came From Iran


Associated Press

QUETTA, Pakistan - A suspected al-Qaida operative who was captured along with another man during raids in this southwestern city is an "explosives expert" who had arrived here from Iran, a security official said Thursday.

The suspects, an Egyptian named Sharif al-Misri and another man of Middle Eastern origin identified as Abdul Hakeem, were caught Sunday when Pakistani intelligence agents acting on a tip raided a home in Quetta, the capital of the province of Baluchistan.

The arrests were announced Wednesday by Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

A security official who is familiar with the investigations of the two suspects told The Associated Press on Thursday that al-Misri had arrived in Pakistan from Iran, where his wife and children have been living since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban government from Afghanistan in late 2001.

"He (al-Misri) is an explosives expert. He has told us that his wife and children live in Iran," said the official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

He said al-Misri admitted training militants in Afghanistan but insists he has done nothing against Pakistan.

"So far, it is not clear why he came here," said the official. "We suspect he was on some mission, but we don't have any details."

Pakistan, a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, shares a border with Iran. Pakistani and Iranian border guards often arrest people, mostly Pakistanis, who try to illegally cross the border to travel to Europe in an effort to seek better jobs.

The latest arrests came weeks after Pakistani police and intelligence agents arrested Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian with a $25 million bounty on his head, and Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, a Pakistani computer expert allegedly with links to al-Qaida operatives around the world.

The arrests led to a terror warning in the United States, and counterterror operations in Britain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Pakistan has arrested more than 550 al-Qaida suspects and turned most of them over to the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks."

The New York Times > Washington > Pentagon Office in Spying Case Was Focus of Iran Debate

The New York Times > Washington > Pentagon Office in Spying Case Was Focus of Iran Debate: "Pentagon Office in Spying Case Was Focus of Iran Debate

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 - The Pentagon's policy office, where a lower-level analyst is under suspicion of passing secrets to Israel, was deeply involved in deliberations over how the United States should deal with Iran, its conservative Islamic government and its nuclear weapons ambitions - all issues of intense concern to Israel as well.

The analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, a Farsi-speaking specialist on Iran in the office, participated in a secret outreach meeting with an Iranian opposition figure, had access to classified intelligence about Iran's nuclear program and was one of many officials involved in drafting a top-secret presidential order on Iran.

The authorities say that Mr. Franklin, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, passed to lobbyists from a pro-Israel group a draft of the presidential order, known as a National Security Presidential Directive. But President Bush has not yet approved a final version because many of the policy questions themselves remain under intense debate.

"We have an ad hoc policy that we're making up as we go along," said a government official involved in the internal debate. "It is to squeeze Iran, using international pressure, to get them to rid themselves of their nuclear program."

The shifting, unresolved nature of the administration's policy toward Iran may have led Israel or the lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which seeks to influence United States policy, to seek a window into the administration's decision-making process, even if it was through a relatively low-level analyst like Mr. Franklin, Pentagon officials said.

A lawyer for the committee said Tuesday that Steven Rosen, the group's director of foreign policy issues, and Kenneth Weissman, an expert on Iran, were interviewed last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. No charges have been brought and no arrests have been made in the case.

Israeli officials were intently interested in both Washington's policy debates and in the intelligence about the progress Iran is making in its nuclear program, a former Bush administration official said. Israeli officials have made it clear, a former senior American diplomat said recently, that if Iran passes some undefined "red lines" in its nuclear program, Israel will consider attacking the sites, much as it attacked Iraq's main nuclear plant 23 years ago.

"What the Israelis really want," the former diplomat said, "is as much detail as they can get about how close the Iranians are getting."

The Defense Department's policy office is a miniature State Department contained within the Pentagon bureaucracy. It is headed by an under secretary of defense, Douglas J. Feith, and employs more than 1,500 policy makers, analysts and other specialists, including Mr. Franklin. Its work centers primarily on regional strategic planning like deliberations on what positions the government should take in dealing with other countries. In doing so, it works closely with the State Department and National Security Council.

For more than a year, a major debate over Iran policy has divided the administration. Hard-liners at the Pentagon, including some in the policy office, and, to some extent, in the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, have advocated a policy of threatening confrontation with the government in Tehran, and supporting opposition groups and student demonstrations, government officials said.

"We know that there is widespread unhappiness in the country about the failures of the clerical regime," Mr. Feith said of Iran at a Pentagon news conference on June 4, 2003. "The president has expressed his sympathy with the aspirations of the Iranians to have a free country."

One former senior official in the administration said that a small group of officials, especially in the Defense Department, had talked periodically about pursuing a policy of "regime change" in Iran, but that the debate had proved sterile. "How do you do it?" the former official asked. "There's no military option. The reformers want the bomb as much as the mullahs want it. You have no choice but to engage."

Last May, one proposal advocated by some lower-level Pentagon officials advocated covert support for Iranian resistance groups to destabilize Iran's powerful clergy. Some officials even raised the prospect of air strikes against an Iranian nuclear site at Natanz if Iran's nuclear program proceeded.

A government official involved in the debate said Monday, however, that he was not aware that any official in the Pentagon policy office had ever raised the possibility of using air strikes or backing resistance movements, even as a last resort.

A competing position, which has prevailed as administration policy, has sought to support the elected government of President Mohammad Khatami in its battle with hard-line clerics. This policy has favored using diplomatic pressure on Tehran to end its nuclear program.

What puzzles some associates of Mr. Franklin is that despite his broad contacts with Iranian dissidents, he was not among the department's staunchest hard-liners on Iran. But in an op-ed article published in The Wall Street Journal Europe in February 2000, Mr. Franklin argued: "No amount of clerical spin-doctoring can alter the reality that Iran's government remains its citizens' public enemy No. 1, one that neither trusts its own people, nor is trusted by them. Why should we?"

The policy office under Mr. Feith has been embroiled in a series of controversial issues over the past three years. Before the Iraq war, Mr. Feith established a small intelligence unit that sought to build a case for Iraq's ties to Al Qaeda, an effort disputed by the Central Intelligence Agency.

In a debate last year involving the fate of an Iranian opposition group that is based in Iraq, Mr. Feith's office has been described by some Bush administration officials as playing an instrumental role in calling for reconsideration of American policy toward the organization.

The group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, maintained heavily armed camps in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, but has been listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization since the late 1990's. In the Iraq war last year, American aircraft bombed the group's camps.

Ultimately, the group signed a cease-fire agreement with American military forces in which its members were disarmed. State Department officials said in May 2003 that the question of whether to disarm the Mujahedeen Khalq had been the subject of sharp debate among Pentagon officials. Some administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have gone further, saying that civilians at the Pentagon within Mr. Feith's office had suggested dropping the terrorist designation from the group, and using its members as a lever to maintain pressure on Iraq. But Mr. Feith has called that characterization incorrect.

The meetings were brokered by Michael Ledeen, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who had played a role in the Iran-contra affair in the Reagan administration. Along with Mr. Ledeen, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Rhode met with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian who was an arms deal middleman in the Iran-contra affair.

Beginning in 2001, the meetings were intended to put the administration in closer contact with Iranian dissidents who claimed to have valuable information about Iran, Iraq and terrorist activity in Afghanistan. The dissidents also said they could help track down Mr. Hussein's fortune hidden in international banks.

Although top Pentagon officials approved the first meeting, Mr. Ghorbanifar's involvement subsequently raised concern within the administration because it evoked memories of Iran-contra and questions about whether the Pentagon was engaging in rogue covert operations. In the 1980's, Mr. Ghorbanifar was labeled a "fabricator" by the C.I.A.

Reporting was contributed by Douglas Jehl, James Risen, David E. Sanger and Steven R. Weisman."

Arms Control Association: Arms Control Today: Israel, Iran Flex Missiles

Arms Control Association: Arms Control Today: Israel, Iran Flex Missiles: "Israel, Iran Flex Missiles
Wade Boese

Israel and Iran spent the last weeks of the summer conducting missile tests and exchanging verbal volleys about their determination to match each other’s weapons capabilities.

On July 29, Israel, for the first time, successfully tested its Arrow-2 missile defense system against what was widely reported as a Scud ballistic missile. U.S. and Israeli officials would not officially confirm that the target was a Scud—a mainstay of the Soviet missile arsenal that has spread around the globe, including to Iran—but a Missile Defense Agency spokesperson implied as much, commenting Aug. 13 that the target was a “liquid-fueled short- to medium-range ballistic missile.”

The joint U.S.-Israeli test took place off California’s coast to provide a more realistic test scenario. Israel’s territory is too small and densely populated to fire the Arrow-2 against targets at ranges that would replicate a real attack.

The Arrow-2 system failed Aug. 26 to replicate its earlier success, missing an air-launched target off the coast of California. Although U.S. and Israeli officials said they did not know the cause of the failure, they reaffirmed their confidence in the system, which has been tested a total of 13 times but never used in combat. Israel has deployed two Arrow batteries and is seeking to deploy more of the interceptors.

Unlike U.S. missile interceptors that are designed to destroy enemy targets through collisions, the Arrow-2 carries a conventional explosive warhead. Israel Aircraft Industries, which works with U.S.-owned Boeing Corp. to build the Arrow-2 system, said the July 29 test marked “an important step in proving the system’s operational ability and its response to the existing and growing threat of ballistic missiles in our region.”

With Iraq and Libya currently out of the ballistic missile business, Syria and Iran were clearly the intended audiences. Iran was paying attention. Tehran announced Aug. 11 a successful test of its Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which is estimated to be capable of reaching Israel.

Speaking a few days earlier, Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said Iran intended to match Israeli military advances with its own missile improvements. Iran declared the Shahab-3 ready for operations last year but is believed only to possess a handful of the estimated 1,300-kilometer-range missiles.

Iranian officials indicated that the August test sought to verify enhancements to the missile’s range and accuracy, but they were vague about whether the test was a flight or ground experiment. A U.S. official refused to comment on that aspect of the test.

The Department of State released an Aug. 11 statement warning that the United States has “serious concerns about Iran’s missile programs” and that it “will continue to take steps to address Iran’s missile efforts, and to work closely with other like-minded countries in doing so.”

In July, Congress approved $155 million in fiscal year 2005 for the Arrow system. Since 1988, the United States has funneled $1.2 billion to the program, the total cost of which is estimated to reach $2.2 billion by 2010.

The missile tests occurred against a backdrop of growing tension in the region surrounding Iran’s nuclear program, which Washington and Tel Aviv charge is intended for weapons purposes and Tehran defends as a civilian energy project. " : Powell Launches Unsubstantiated Attack on Iran : Powell: U.S. Wants U.N. Sanctions Vs. Iran: "Powell: U.S. Wants U.N. Sanctions Vs. Iran
Secretary of State Colin Powell Says U.S. Wants U.N. Sanctions Against Iran Over Nuclear Program

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON Sept. 1, 2004 — Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States wants U.N. sanctions imposed on Iran after the Bush administration concluded the country is on the verge of enriching enough uranium for four nuclear weapons.
The new alarms were raised after the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency circulated a classified report among member governments about Iran's nuclear program.

Powell said the United States wants the U.N. Security Council to impose economic, political and/or diplomatic sanctions against Iran because of steps he believes Iran is taking toward developing nuclear weapons.

Speaking with reporters after a daylong trip to Panama, Powell said the administration will push hard for the IAEA to refer the Iran issue to the Security Council for action when the nuclear watchdog group holds a board meeting Sept. 13.

Acknowledging that many board members do not favor Security Council action against Iran at this time, Powell said he will consult with Germany, Britain and France and other IAEA board members about Iran in the coming days.

Earlier Wednesday, Undersecretary of Satate John R. Bolton, the administration's point man on nuclear proliferation threats, said: "We view with great concern" revelations in IAEA report that Iran is about to convert 37 tons of yellow cake uranium into uranium hexafluoride gas.

Bolton said that move combined with Iran's recent announcement that it intends to test its gas centrifuges "are further strong evidence of the compelling need to take Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council."

Uranium hexafluoride is spun in centrifuges to produce enriched uranium, which in turn can be used to generate power or make nuclear warheads, depending on the degree of enrichment.

The United States will continue to urge other members of the U.N. agency's board of governors "to join with us in this effort to deal with the Iranian threat to international peace and security," Bolton said.

Another senior Bush administration official said after Bolton left for talks in Europe that Iran was positioning itself to produce 220 pounds of enriched uranium, enough for four nuclear weapons.

"You are talking serious business here," the official said in an interview in which his identity was withheld. Despite denials by Iran, he said the United States remained convinced that Iran was proceeding to develop nuclear weapons.

However, while Bolton indicated the Bush administration might move unilaterally to try to impose economic or other U.N. sanctions on Iran, there was little likelihood of such a move at least until after the IAEA board's Sept. 13 meeting in Vienna, Austria.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign criticized the Bush administration for going to war against Iraq on what it called discredited grounds instead of acting sooner to marshal U.S. allies to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The IAEA report shows "a leading state sponsor of terrorism is yet another step closer to nuclear weapons capability," said Susan Rice, Kerry's senior national security adviser. "Yet the Bush administration has stood on the sidelines while this nuclear program has advanced. ... It is past time for this administration to develop a tough and effective strategy for dealing with Iran."

U.N. inspectors have been looking for evidence that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program. Such a finding could be critical to the Bush administration's effort to gain support from the other 34 members of the agency to seek U.N. Security Council action.

Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said the report being circulated by the IAEA "continues to document the fact that through the past 18 years Iran has amassed a record of deception and denial about its nuclear activities."

"It will be up to the board to decide what the next steps are," Casey said.

Many of the questions the IAEA has about Iran's activities are outlined in its sixth and latest report, the spokesman said as he accused Iran of violating pledges to refrain from proliferation of nuclear technology and to "come clean" with the IAEA about its activities.

Henry Sokolski, a former Pentagon official who heads a private proliferation research group, said after reading the report that "we need to be backing the inspectors by putting much more pressure on Pakistan."

That is, Sokolski said in a telephone interview, Pakistan should clarify how much of the enriched uranium found in Iran came from Pakistan and how much was illicitly made by Iran.

Also, he said, "the problem with the IAEA isn't the inspectors, it is getting the board to confirm what the inspectors have found."" - IAEA: No proof of secret Iran plan - Sep 1, 2004 - IAEA: No proof�of secret�Iran�plan - Sep 1, 2004: "IAEA: No proof of secret Iran plan
From CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel
Thursday, September 2, 2004 Posted: 12:03 AM EDT (0403 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.N. atomic watchdog agency says weapons inspectors have not uncovered evidence to support accusations that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program.

However, a U.S. State Department official said the Bush administration still intends to work toward referring the matter to the U.N. Security Council for possible punitive action.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency accepts that Iran may not have produced HEU (highly enriched uranium), a key ingredient needed to produce nuclear weapons. HEU contamination had been found at the Kalaye Electric Company and at the Natanz sites in Iran.

"It appears plausible that the HEU contamination found at those locations may not have resulted from enrichment of uranium by Iran," the report said.

Iran has maintained that the source of the contamination was not domestically produced HEU but rather imported equipment -- specifically centrifuge equipment it said it purchased from Pakistan in the 1990s.

But the State Department official told CNN the picture is murkier than the IAEA report indicates, noting "there are too many pieces to explain it away as a peaceful program."

"We view with great concern the IAEA report that Iran is about to convert 37 tons of 'yellowcake' uranium into uranium hexaflouride gas, as well as Iran's recent announcement that it intends to test its gas centrifuge cascade," said Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton in a written statement to CNN.

"Iran's announcements are further strong evidence of the compelling need to take Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council. The United States will continue to urge other members of the IAEA Board of Governors to join us in this effort, to deal with the Iranian threat to international peace and security," Bolton wrote.

But, considering the tone and text of Wednesday's report, it appears unlikely the Bush administration will find support among the IAEA's 35-member body to refer the matter to the United Nations this month to consider imposing sanctions against Iran.

In Tehran, Iran's former representative to the IAEA, Ali Akbar Salehi, predicted that Iran`s nuclear case would not be referred to the Security Council.

"I predict that the next session of IAEA`s board of governors will not be a complicated and hot one," Salehi told IRNA, Iran's government-run news organization.

The agency knows that uranium enrichment has not been carried out in Iran, he said, adding, "We take it as a favorable decision."

Still, the IAEA report qualified its findings and said it is not ready to "draw definitive conclusions" about the "correctness and completeness" of Iran's declarations.

In particular, the report cited the appearance of low enriched uranium on domestically produced components in various locations in Iran and said it would "continue with its efforts to understand the source."

A second matter of concern to IAEA inspectors is the extent of Iran's efforts to acquire and use centrifuges of the P-1 and P-2 design, which could be used to produce nuclear weapons fuel.

A Western diplomat told CNN that IAEA inspectors believe they got a "very good fix" on Iran's development of these designs since 2002. But the diplomat said Iran had not provided enough information to back up its claim that no P-2 centrifuge-related activities or centrifuge-procurement activities occurred between 1995 and 2002.

The question, this diplomat said, is "can we trust what Iran has said on this file?" between 1995-2002 because "if it's incorrect that raises questions on other things" Iran has told the IAEA.

The report implies that its year-long investigation into the source of the HEU contamination and the origin of the P-2 centrifuge design has ended.

The IAEA report also cites "very good cooperation" by Iran with U.N. weapons inspectors in affording them access to suspected nuclear sites, but a spotty record on providing information "promptly."

Iran has maintained its enrichment program was devoted to peaceful purposes to produce nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons.

Although it was under no legal obligation to do so, Iran this year agreed to suspend its enrichment program as a show of good will to the international community.

According to the Western diplomat, enrichment facilities at Natanz are still "under seal" and U.N. inspectors have continued to monitor them.

But in July, Iran modified the terms of the agreement it made with France, Germany and Britain and started to produce and assemble centrifuge components, the Western diplomat said."

Reuters AlertNet - CHRONOLOGY-Major earthquakes in Iran

Reuters AlertNet - CHRONOLOGY-Major earthquakes in Iran: "CHRONOLOGY-Major earthquakes in Iran
01 Sep 2004 16:25:11 GMT

Source: Reuters

LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Iran on Wednesday revised upwards the number killed when an earthquake destroyed the ancient Silk Road city of Bam last December to nearly 31,000 from a previous estimate of around 26,000.

Here is a chronology of some of the major earthquakes in Iran in the past three decades.

Apr 10, 1972 - 5,347 people were killed when an earthquake with a radius of more than 250 miles struck southern Iran around Ghir Karzin. The quake measured 7.1 on the Richter scale.

Mar 22, 1977 - 167 people were killed when an earthquake struck the southeastern coastal region around the town of Bandar Abbas. It measured 7 on the Richter scale.

Apr 6/7, 1977 - 352 people were killed when an earthquake struck Isfahan province. It measured 6.5 on the Richter Scale.

Dec 21, 1977 - An earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale struck the town of Zarand in Kerman Province, killing 521 people.

Sept 16, 1978 - 15,000 people were killed by an earthquake which measured between 7.5 and 7.9 on the Richter scale. It levelled the town of Tabas and many other villages.

Jan 16, 1979 - An earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale struck Khorasan province, killing 199 people.

Nov 14, 1979 - An earthquake struck eastern Iran measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale. It hit a string of villages in Khorasan province, killing at least 385 people.

Jun 11, 1981 - 1,027 people were killed and more than 800 injured. It measured 6.8 on the Richter scale. The town of Golbaf, 800 km (500 miles) southeast of Tehran, was destroyed.

Jun 21, 1990 - 35,000 died and 100,000 were injured when an earthquake, which registered 7.7 on the Richter scale, devastated the Caspian regions of Gilan and Zanjan. Some 500,000 were made homeless.

Feb 28, 1997 - A quake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale killed about 1,000 people in northwestern Iran.

May 10, 1997 - A quake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale killed 1,560 people in rural areas of eastern Iran near the Afghan border.

Jun 22, 2002 - An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale razed dozens of villages in north Iran's Qazvin province killing 229.

Dec 26, 2003 - An earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale strikes the city of Bam, 1,000 km (600 miles) southeast of Tehran. 30,948 were killed in the quake.

IranMania News

IranMania News: "US accused of using Al-Qaeda against Iran

LONDON, Aug 31 (IranMania) - Iran accused the United States and European secret services on Tuesday of unsuccessfully using former Al-Qaeda operatives against the Islamic republic.

Intelligence Minister Ali Yunessi also warned the United States of an Iranian response to any attempt by it to destabilise the country, Iran's State News Agency (IRNA) reported.

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".

"A number of them were activated by these services to commit terrorist acts, but we identified and arrested them," he claimed, without giving any further details.

"There is no security in the region without Iran, and if the United States or any other country threatens our security, their security will also be threatened," the minister warned.

"The region is not safer than what it was before September 11. The Americans got rid of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, but have expanded insecurity in the world. One of the aims of the US ... is Iran," he added.

Yunessi nevertheless reiterated that Iran was fighting "all forms of terrorism".

"At the present moment, a number of important members of Al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam are in our prisons," he said, repeating earlier declarations but again refusing to elaborate on the identity of those being held.

Ansar al-Islam was a hardline Iraqi group based along the border with Iran that was targetted by the United States at the outset of the war on Iraq. Iran has in the past been frequently accused of helping both it and Al-Qaeda."

India to construct 5 IT parks in Iran -

India to construct 5 IT parks in Iran - "India to construct 5 IT parks in Iran

Iran today said India will set up five Information Technology (IT) parks in the country to train 5,000 personnel.
An agreement to this effect has been signed by the two nations, the Iranian ambassador to New Delhi, Siavosh Zargar Yaqoubi, said in Tabriz, East Azarbaijan province, during a meeting with Governor General of the province.
Besides providing training to 5,000 people the project will set the stage for creating 300,000 jobs in local industrial sector worth 300 million dollars, he said yesterday.
The ambassador stressed that the a regional economic-political block comprising India, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan would surely materialise, adding that E.Azerbaijan can have a prominent role in this process as a link point to Europe. "

AP Wire | 09/01/2004 | Key Dates in U.S.-Iran Relations

AP Wire | 09/01/2004 | Key Dates in U.S.-Iran Relations: "Key Dates in U.S.-Iran Relations

Associated Press

Important dates in U.S.-Iranian relations:

_Jan. 16, 1979: U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi flees Iran after mass demonstrations and strikes.

_Feb. 1, 1979: Ayatollah Khomeini returns from exile.

_Nov. 4, 1979: Iranian students seize 63 hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

_April 25, 1980: A secret U.S. military mission to rescue hostages ends in disaster in a sandstorm in a central Iranian desert.

_July 27, 1980: Pahlavi dies of cancer in Egypt.

_Sept. 22, 1980: Iraq declares war against Iran.

_Jan. 20, 1981: As President Reagan is inaugurated, Iran releases the remaining 52 American hostages after 444 days of detention.

_Jan. 20, 1984: The United States declares Iran a sponsor of international terrorism, making Iran ineligible for various forms of U.S. foreign assistance.

_1985-86: Washington and Tehran engage in a complex scheme to finance assistance to Nicaraguan rebels through proceeds of U.S. weapons sales to Iran.

_August 1986: The United States prohibits Iran from receiving U.S. arms under the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.

_1987-88: Hostilities between Tehran and Baghdad draw in neighbors and international shippers. The United States and Iran engage in open and direct conflict in the "tanker war."

_Oct. 29, 1987: Reagan signs an executive order banning Iranian imports, including crude oil, because of Iran's support for terrorism and its threat to maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf.

_July 3, 1988: The USS Vincennes shoots down an Iran Air A300 Airbus over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 people. The U.S. military says it misidentified the plane as an Iranian fighter, an account disputed by Iran.

_July 20, 1988: Iran formally accepts a U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire between Iran and Iraq, ending its war with Iraq.

_June 3, 1989: Khomeini dies. Ali Khamenei is appointed supreme leader. Hashemi Rafsanjani is sworn in as Iran's president two months later.

_1990-91: Iran remains neutral in U.S.-led Operation Desert Storm to push Iraq out of Kuwait.

_May 6, 1995: President Clinton issues an executive order banning U.S. trade and investment in Iran.

_May 23, 1997: Mohammad Khatami wins Iran's presidential election.

_June 17, 1998: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gives a major policy address on Iran, proposing the two countries construct a "road map" for better relations.

_April 28, 1999: The Clinton administration loosens sanctions to permit sales of food and medicine to Iran.

_July 1999: Major protests erupt in many Iranian cities; the United States criticizes the repression of student demonstrators.

_Feb. 18, 2000: Iranian reformists win a landslide victory in a general election.

_April 14, 2000: The United States announces sanctions on four Iranian entities, including the Defense Ministry, for missile proliferation.

_September 2001: After the Sept. 11 attacks, Friday prayers in Tehran omit "Death to America" chants for the first time in recent history; Iranians mourn U.S. deaths.

_Oct. 9, 2001: Khatami calls for an "immediate end" to U.S. military strikes on the Taliban.

_Nov. 12, 2001: Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Iranian foreign minister meet at an international session on Afghanistan and shake hands in an unprecedented diplomatic overture.

_Jan. 29, 2002: In his first State of the Union address, President Bush includes Iran in his "axis of evil" along with Iraq and North Korea.

_Feb. 11, 2002: Iran commemorates its revolution's anniversary with the largest anti-U.S. protests in years.

_Feb. 13, 2002: The United States and Israel block Iran's application to the World Trade Organization.

_December 2002: The United States accuses Iran of seeking to develop a secret nuclear weapons program.

_August 2003: The International Atomic Energy Agency confirms finding weapons-grade uranium at the Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz.

_Oct. 21, 2003: Iran agrees to suspend its uranium-enrichment program.

_December 2003: Washington sends humanitarian aid to Iran after an earthquake in Bam kills up to 26,000 people.

_March 13, 2004: Iran indefinitely bars inspections of its nuclear program, but relents two days later.

_July 31, 2004: Iran confirms it has resumed building nuclear centrifuges. Washington continues lobbying IAEA to refer Iran to U.N. Security Council."

Iran Says Has Arrested Several Nuclear Spies

Top News Article | "Iran Says Has Arrested Several Nuclear Spies
Tue Aug 31, 2004 09:15 AM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has arrested dozens of spies, including several who passed secrets about its nuclear program to its enemies, Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said on Tuesday.
The United States accuses Iran of using its atomic program as a smokescreen for building nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists the program is solely dedicated to meeting booming domestic demand for electricity.

"The Intelligence Ministry has arrested a number of spies that transferred Iran's nuclear intelligence (abroad)," Yunesi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Yunesi said most of those arrested were linked to the Iraq-based Iranian opposition group the People's Mujahideen Organization (MKO).

He did not say when the arrests took place, but his remarks came after Iran's "government week" in which ministries catalog their achievements over a broad timeframe.

"The hypocrites (MKO) had the lead role and they have boasted before about spying against Iran in a press conference in America," he added. "We have identified and arrested dozens of spies on various grounds."

Iranian officials label the MKO hypocrites for losing faith in the 1979 Islamic revolution and the government says the group has killed several prominent politicians since the revolution. Washington lists it as a terrorist group.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the MKO's political wing, has been the source of some of the most reliable information about Iran's nuclear program in recent years, as subsequently proven by U.N. inspections.

In August 2002, the NCRI broke the news of two undeclared sites in Iran -- a massive uranium enrichment complex at Natanz and a heavy water production facility at Arak.

Tehran later declared these sites to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

The Intelligence Ministry said it has nothing to add to the IRNA report."

Uranium enrichment heart of Iran’s nuclear activities

Description of Selected News: "Uranium enrichment heart of Iran’s nuclear activities

TEHRAN (MNA) -- MP Heshmatollah Falahat Pisheh said that the recent report on Iran’s nuclear activities prepared by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei shows that the West cannot infringe on Iran’s obvious right to enrich uranium through the agency or by using technical and legal pretexts.

Criticizing ElBaradei’s report, which has left Iran’s nuclear dossier open due to minor ambiguities such as low-level uranium contamination of imported equipment, Falahat Pisheh rejected the U.S. claims that Iran’s nuclear activities are of a military nature.

He stressed that Europe’s ultimate goal is preventing Iran from gaining access to the complete nuclear fuel cycle, adding that Iran will open talks with Europe in this regard.

“We will not give them any concessions or forgo our right, for uranium enrichment is the heart of Iran’s nuclear activities,” the Majlis deputy said.

Majlis Education and Research Committee Chairman Ali Abbaspur said that Iran has gained access to nuclear enrichment technology despite economic sanctions, adding that of course the country will not give up this technology easily in the hope of receiving minor supplies from other countries.

Enrichment activities are not only necessary for manufacturing fuel for nuclear power plants but are also required for producing essential isotopes for industrial, medical, and agricultural activities, he stated.

Abbaspur referred to the EU’s proposal to sell nuclear fuel to Iran on the condition that Iran agree not to gain access to a branch of nuclear technology, saying that no government or parliament can deprive its future generations of their obvious right to access to nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes.

The Majlis deputy from Tehran stressed that the U.S. efforts to bring up the issue of Iran’s nuclear dossier during the frequent IAEA Board of Governors sessions have assured world public opinion of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Political analyst Yusef Molayi said that Iran’s nuclear problem is not a technical or legal issue, adding that Iran should seek a political resolution in order to foster confidence.

Molayi added that ElBaradei’s report is only technical, saying that it has not referred to any legal ambiguity in regard to Iran’s nuclear activities.

The report has left Iran’s dossier open due to certain minor technical ambiguities, he pointed out.

The professor stated that instead of examining ElBaradei’s technical report the IAEA Board has become influenced by international relations and policies.

The IAEA Board has asked Iran to foster confidence about its peaceful nuclear activities in the international arena, but apparently there is no paradigm for confidence-building except for the measure carried out by Libya, he said.

Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee spokesman Kazem Jalali believes that under the current circumstances the remaining minor ambiguities about Iran’s nuclear dossier have been resolved.

It is surprising that Iran’s nuclear dossier is still on the agenda of the IAEA Board, Jalali added.

The issue of the P-2 centrifuge and the fact that a great amount of nuclear contamination found in the Kalaye Electric workshop and in Natanz are related to the highly enriched uranium (HEU) contamination of imported nuclear equipment leave no room for ambiguities on the source of the 36 percent uranium contamination that was also discovered, he observed.

He went on to say that there is no international law depriving countries of the right to gain access to nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes, adding that the West has no pretext to prevent Iran from gaining access to the complete nuclear fuel cycle.

A global consensus was not established against Iran’s nuclear activities and the accusations were not institutionalized, which is a sign of the failure of the U.S. policies, Jalali said in conclusion."