Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Landscape of Factional Politics In Iran

The Landscape of Factional Politics In Iran: "The Landscape of Factional Politics In Iran
by Hossein Seifzadeh, August 20, 2002
The Bush Administration's July 12 statement of support for "the Iranian people" and reporting in the New York Times and elsewhere suggests that the White House has given up on the ability of reformist politicians like Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to alter Iran's foreign policy orientation. But before the United States turns away from its attempts to engage Iran, it would do well to learn more about the factions that govern Iranian politics today. A clearer understanding of the domestic balance of power in Iran would prompt more thoughtful US policy, including, when appropriate, a policy of saying nothing at all.

Contrary to the disappointment of the US administration over the pace of reform in Iran, a deeper analysis demonstrates that Iranian society is increasingly becoming modern and diverse. As a result, fundamentalists are on the decline, transitionalists are in search of self-definition, and modernizing forces are becoming increasingly popular. Within such a mixed context of rapid change, it is normal that factionalism has become a basic feature of Iranian politics, easily creating confusion among those who are new to the dynamics of Iranian politics. This essay closely examines the power distribution, the philosophical or ideological teachings and the dynamics of competition between and among political factions in Iran.

Political Factions in Iran

While the electoral process in Iran is still tightly controlled by fundamentalists opposed to reform, there have been important changes in the character of the Islamic Republic since 1979. In fact, the electoral process in Iran has given rise to four unique eras, or Republics: the Liberal-Nationalist Republic, the Fundamentalist Islamic Republic, the Pragmatist Republic, and the Reformist Republic. In all these eras, except that of the Reformists, one social stratum achieved hegemonic status, while others were marginalized. But even the fundamentalists, with their power over the electoral process, have been unable to sustain total control of the Iranian political system at least by now.

Today, for the first time, there is a balance of power between two rival factions: Fundamentalists and Reformists. The former has the structural power within the state, the latter has the power of popular support, and the pragmatists play a balancing role between them. Unfortunately, if the current US policy of sanctions combined with rhetorical support for reform is continued, there is a high probability that reform and the reformers will suffer. They will lose their popularity on two counts: on the one hand, they will be accused of implementing "hostile US policies" in Iran, since the US claims to support them. On the other hand, continuing sanctions will prevent them from improving day-to-day life as they have promised to do. They will thus lose all credibility with the Iranian public that elected them to office.

Because of the US claim of support for the reformist movement, the Council of Guardians is determined to avoid further electoral successes by reformists in the future. To implement this scheme, they plan to disperse their supervising organizations across the country in order to build prior understanding of the ideological orientations of would-be candidates in local districts. Reformist candidates will then face a terrible choice: they will either water down their agendas during the campaign and lose their popularity, or they will be disqualified from running by Council of Guardians.

In addition, the Expediency Council is contriving to expand the supervisory role of the Supreme Leader over all three branches of the government, using the Expediency Council as a tool. If these fundamentalist schemes succeed, the Islamic Republic will turn into a patriarchal Islamic government in the short-term, just as the fundamentalists desire. However, in the longer run, Islamic government can be expected to pave the way for another round of instability in the region, perhaps through a fascist or ultranationalist revolution.

Popularity and Power Distribution among Factions in Iran

In the last presidential election, 78.3% of the vote went to the reformists, including the pragmatist party Kargozarane Sazandegi (Agents for Construction), and 15.9% went to the fundamentalists, including another pragmatist party, E'tedal Va Tose'eh, (Moderation and Development) that was in an implicit coalition with the fundamentalists.

Power distribution in Iran, however, does not reflect the popular vote. Even with 78.3% of the electoral vote, reformists have still limited structural power. Traditional economic and cultural sources of power, plus unelected institutions controlled by the fundamentalists, restrict the reformists' ability to exercise power in the institutions they control: the Majlis (parliament), the presidency, and the city councils. And 70% of the highest official positions in the state bureaucracy are filled by appointment, generally by fundamentalists.

Implicit in the electoral statistics is the disenchantment of a sizeable 33% of the population, those who refused to vote in the 2001 presidential election. Dissatisfaction with the efficiency of reform is considerably on the rise. In a 2001 national survey, 90.5% supported either reform or fundamental change in political processes. This reservoir of popular support for reform and/or fundamental change is a challenge to the fundamentalists, who crave popular acceptance, and far less against the efficiency of the reformists. But the bloc of disenchanted voters threatens to grow larger if the reformists continue to be stymied in their attempts to change domestic policy. The growing number of frustrated voters thus presents a challenge to both of the contending factions, territorial integrity of the nation, and stability of the region.

Factions that Support the Idea of an Islamic Government or Islamic Republic

Fundamentalists

Fundamentalism originated from two different social strata in Iran: modernizing and traditional. Thanks to a very deep education and cultural transformation, the modernizing fundamentalists of the past are the reformists of today. The current ideologically fundamentalist faction in Iran has a traditional social base. Due, however, to the immense social changes in Iran over the past two decades, the traditional fundamentalists have receded and lost their popular support. Nonetheless, they still have sufficient structural power to impede the processes of modernization and democratization being advocated by the reformists.

Fundamentalists support a patriarchal Islamic government, in which popular sovereignty is void. They seek to preserve what they view as a traditional lifestyle, characterized by the politicization of Islamic concepts of law and society, the primacy of the military, and the preservation of the wealth of traditional merchants. Politically, the fundamentalists are organized through the Society of Assertive Clerics (Jame'eh Rohaniyate Mobarez, or JRM) and the Society of Instructors of the Seminaries (Jame'eh Modarresin Hoze Elmieh), which is the core cultural group among fundamentalists. A modified version of their views is reflected in their daily newspaper, Entekhab.

There are two other influential fundamentalist associations as well. The first, which represents the traditionalist merchants of the bazaar, is politically organized in the Board of Islamic Coalition (Heyate Mo'talefeh Eslami, or BIC). The second is the tightly organized Society of Muslim Engineers (Jame'eh Eslami Mohandesin). Each of these two groups publishes a daily newspaper that conducts relentless attacks on reformist figures. Moreover, they try to educate their own forces through new, modern universities that are tightly controlled and free from governmental supervision. Various colleges and universities have been established in the seminaries of the city of Qom and by their representatives in Tehran. The most influential ones are Imam Sadegh University, controlled by JRM, and the Islamic Azad University which is the largest and widespread across the country. Thanks to the unwavering support of the financially and legally strong BIC - the strongest non-clerical fundamentalist group in Iran - the officials of this university do need to abide by academic rules set by Ministry of Higher Education.

In addition to their hegemonic positions in seminaries and the Old Bazaar, fundamentalists benefit from their appointments to high positions at various endowments (bonyads), economic institutions, armed forces, the judiciary and the executive branch. These appointments include six clerical members of Council of Guardians; the clerical members of the Council of Experts; the leaders of Friday prayers; the clerics in the "Propagation Organization," which is responsible for publicizing Islamic values; senior judgeships; the Chamber of Commerce; and other positions appointed by the Supreme Leader.

Fundamentalist Policy Preferences

The domestic politics of fundamentalists are more congruent with totalitarianism, though they are unable to implement its principles within the current political system. In foreign policy, this faction capitalizes on radical approaches towards Israel and relations with the West in general and the United States in particular. For them, closer relations with the West will promote modernizing sectors of society, at their expense. They oppose foreign investment, again since it builds the reformists' power base while damaging the traditional economic interests of fundamentalist allies. In other, less sensitive, sectors of the economy, however, they would like to curtail government interference.

Pragmatists

The pragmatists are an elitist authoritarian faction, mainly inspired by the intellectual work of economic professors at Shahid Beheshti University. They believe in economic modernization from above, but have no evident interest in the democratization of politics.

The pragmatists organize themselves in two different parties, both supporting former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rafsanjani's two daughters are founding members of the two parties. Both parties are made up of technocrats who support bureaucratic authoritarianism, but they differ on cultural issues. Hezbe Kargozaran Sazandegi supports the Reformists' open approach to culture. By contrast, Hezbe E'tedal va Tose'eh's views toward culture are more congruent with the fundamentalists: they believe in at least a partially closed society. Both parties are economically modern and organized politically to fill the centrist gap between the extremes of the reformist and fundamentalist factions. They do not take positions on sensitive issues such as democratization of the society, Iran-US relations or the Arab-Israeli issue, but do favor technical and economic relations with the West, including the United States.

The presiding members of Hezbe Kargozaran Sazandegi include the former mayor of Tehran, Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, the governor of Central Bank, Mohsen Nour Bakhsh, the former Minister of Guidance, Atta'ollah Mohajerani, and former vice-president Mohsen Hashemi Taba. Rafsanjani's daughter, brother and nephew also figure prominently in the party.

During the heated electoral debates between seven presidential candidates in 2001, Rafsanjani and the Hezbe Kargozaran Sazandegi tilted towards an alliance with the pro-Khatami reformist platform. Due to the critical stances of some leading reformists against Rafsanjani's non-democratic approach to reform, his second daughter, Fatemeh, alongside with other pragmatists such as Mahmoud Vaezi (the former deputy foreign mimister) and Hossein Kamali (former labor minister), who are loyal to her father, set up the Hezbe E'tedal va Tose'eh.

Reformists

The reformist camp is the intellectual force in Iranian politics. They support the democratization of Iran and peaceful interaction with the outside world. They split into idealist and realist schools of thought.

Idealists believe in economic interdependence, the coexistence of diverse cultures, and political interactions within a universal global civilization. They therefore root their foreign policy doctrine in the concept of a Dialogue Among Civilizations and look towards a "coalition for peace."

Realist reformists, by contrast, believe in an institutional balance of power in domestic politics and political deterrence in international politics. They perceive important international threats, but distinguish themselves from the fundamentalists by arguing that political rather than military means should be used to fend off these threats. With respect to the Arab-Israeli issue, both groups of reformists advocate a two-state solution supported by the United Nations, and believe that any political settlement must be both just and determined by the Palestinians themselves. They favor a balanced relationship with the United States, based on mutual interests, and far from the patron-client relationship that existed in the past.

Reformists are united in their support for a pluralist, democratic political system, but the idealists emphasize the promotion of civil society in Iran while the realists believe in a balance of power in domestic politics. Generally, they are inspired by the romantic sociology of Ali Sharia'ti and wisdom of modern and post-modern Iranian thinkers, who synthesize Islamic moral concepts with modern Enlightenment political philosophy, and argue that there is no inherent tension between democracy and an Islamic society.

Today, reformist thinkers find a home in the Department of Political Science at Tehran University, in Tarbiat Modarres University, and in the works of such thinkers as Abdol-Karim Soroush and Mohammad Mojtahed Shabastari. Many young clerics are attracted to this reading of Islam, based simultaneously on scientific rationality, philosophical wisdom, and spiritual Gnosticism.

The reformist camp is very diverse. The most liberal amongst them is the Participation Front Party, led institutionally by Mohammad Reza Khatami, the president's brother, and intellectually by Sa'eed Hajjarian and his associates. The second-most influential and disciplined party is the Organization of Strivers of the Islamic Revolution (Sazmane Mojahedine Enghelab Eslami). The third non-clerical group is the Solidarity Party (Hezbe Hambastegi), whose major leading figure is Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, one of the leaders in the hostage-taking fiasco. Asgharzadeh now asserts that such action is detrimental to world peace and hence inappropriate in diplomatic relations. Indeed, many leading reformists are now critical of their own radical fundamentalism in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 revolution.

Amongst the reformists, the least modern group is the Association of Assertive Clerics (Majma'e Rohaniyoune Mobarez, not to be confused with the fundamentalist Society of Assertive Clerics). This group is mainly affiliated with Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who has been under house arrest by the regime for the past few years, and Ayatollah Jalal Taheri, whose recent public letter of resignation from the Friday prayer leadership made him the target of harsh attacks by fundamentalists. As a cleric who supports a post-modern perspective on Islam, Iranian President Khatami stands out among this group.

Conclusion

In sum, the reformists support a transition to a democratic pluralist state, pragmatists promote bureaucratic authoritarianism, and fundamentalists favor a more totalitarian approach to politics. Currently, the two extremes are evenly matched, and only the pragmatists' interest in economic development and social modernization keeps them from indulging wholeheartedly in the intensive, scholastic debates over the future of the Islamic Republic. It is this balance of power and the stasis it has induced that are interpreted by some American observers as Khatami's inability to implement reform. The American policy of rhetorical support for reformists and simultaneous maintenance of sanctions is perhaps the most incapacitating factor now affecting the reformist movement. Because the reformists lack structural power, rhetorical support from outside only increases their vulnerability.

The ultimate outcome of this drawn-out factional battle will determine Iranian foreign policy as well as domestic developments. Those interested in understanding the dynamics of Iranian politics would do well to pay attention to the outlines of this factional battle in Iran.

Given the internal balance of power between the three factions, perhaps the best the United States can do right now is take a hands-off attitudes toward domestic factional politics in Iran, and try to capitalize instead on the shared strategic interests of both countries. Iran's pressing strategic interests are something that all the Iranian factions can agree on, and thus present the best hope for constructive US-Iranian dialogue.

But there is also an Iranian form of "constructive engagement" that could shift the internal balance between the popular reformists and the powerful fundamentalists. While there is little American rhetoric can do to change politics in Iran, its leverage is far more meaningful. Iran has applied for consideration to join the World Trade Organization, and its faltering economy is desperate for international investment to help create jobs for its overwhelmingly youthful population. Growing economic ties to the West could create new private wealth in Iran, which would significantly reduce the appeal of xenophobic arguments and the leverage of the fundamentalist parties. Commercial ties to the outside world would also reinforce Iran's increasing social openness. In this way, rather than through declarations of support for the Iranian people, the United States could encourage constructive change in Iranian politics.

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Hossein Seifzadeh is a scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute and a fellow at the Center for Middle East Studies of Harvard University until September 2002. He is a professor of political science at the University of Tehran.


The views expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect those of the Middle East Institute, which does not take a position on Middle East Issues.
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The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - The ominous backlash of an attack against Iran

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - The ominous backlash of an attack against Iran: "The ominous backlash of an attack against Iran

By David Hirst
Special to The Daily Star
Monday, September 13, 2004


When U.S. President George W. Bush first identified the two Middle East members of his "axis of evil," Iran clearly ranked as a far more formidable adversary than Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

But Bush went after the easier target instead. "Did we invade the wrong country?" now asks leading American commentator Charles Krauthammer, speaking for many neoconservative hawks as the U.S. refocuses on Iran. From their standpoint, it must surely look as if they did. For the neocons, overthrowing Saddam was to have been nothing if not regional in purpose, the opening phase of a grand design to "transform"' the entire Middle East. But such are the region's cross-border dynamics that success was never going to be assured even in one country unless it embraced others too.

However, it is hardly success in Iraq that accounts for the increasingly urgent concerns about Iran; it is more likely the specter of catastrophic failure. For if the Islamic Republic - with its intrinsic weight, fundamentalist leadership, a missile and possibly an unconventional weapons program far more serious-looking than Saddam's, hostility to Israel and sponsorship of movements like Hizbullah - was always the most dangerous of "rogue states," it is now more dangerous than it was at the outset of the Iraq adventure. It simply has to be subdued.

That, Washington hawks argue, should come via nuclear weapons, which, they say, Iran is secretly building. It is the only feasible means short of an all but unthinkable full-scale invasion. Bush insists that Iran cannot be allowed to go nuclear. "If nothing is done," argues Krauthammer, "a fanatical terrorist regime openly dedicated to the destruction of the 'Great Satan' will have both nuclear weapons and the terrorists and missiles to deliver them. All that stands between us and that is either revolution or pre-emptive strike. Both of which are far more likely to succeed with 146,000 American troops and highly sophisticated aircraft standing by just a few miles away - in Iraq."

Such talk doesn't seem to frighten the mullahs. Clearly, they do worry about the strategic encirclement that the U.S. has thrown around them. Yet, paradoxically, they are emboldened, too: For they think that if they are more vulnerable, so, overextended and floundering, is their adversary.

They are saying it loud and clear: We have strategic assets to match America's own, we are no Saddam "cakewalk," and the cost of any U.S. - or Israeli - attempt to exploit their military advantages against us will be great and regionwide. In propaganda terms at least, these assets include unconventional ones. Iran claims that it is not developing nuclear weapons. But much of its behavior - at least that of the once-again-dominant, hard-line clerical establishment - indicates a quite deliberate attempt, rather like the earlier stages of Israel's policy of nuclear opacity, to cloak the claim in doubt and ambiguity, nourishing the convictions of all those, not just Israelis and neocons, who believe it is developing them.

Certainly, at least, the Iranian regime wants to create the impression that it is acquiring the kind of firepower that only weapons of mass destruction can supply. What else can former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani mean when, characteristically, he said that if Israel were to kill 15 million Iranians in a nuclear strike, Iran could wipe out 5 million Israelis in response?

If the Islamic Republic doesn't actually have the unconventional means - not yet, at least - to lend substance to its militant rhetoric, it does have conventional means that have long been an intrinsic, largely surreptitious part of its whole "revolutionary" modus operandi. In fact, through Iraq, the removal of its archenemy Saddam and the emancipation and new aspirations of the long-suppressed Iraqi Shiite majority, it has them in new and providential abundance.

"Some military commanders in Iran," said Iran's defense minister, Ali Shamkani, "are convinced that preventive operations which the Americans talk about are not their monopoly. We too are present from Khost to Kandahar in Afghanistan, in the Gulf, and we can be in Iraq, where U.S. forces won't be an element of strength at our expense, but our hostage."


No wonder that, for the new Iraqi government, Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's rebellion was as much about Iran and the part it was suspected of playing in financing, arming and advising it, as it was about Sadr himself. The message, remarked Lebanese Iran expert Michel Naufal, was that "if Washington exerts pressure to foil Tehran's nuclear program, the Islamic Republic will meddle with the U.S. plans in post-war Iraq."

And then there is always Lebanon and Hizbullah, that everlasting flashpoint in reserve. Quiescent of late, Hizbullah is ever ready to re-enter the jihadist arena, drawing on the arsenal of rockets, vastly increased in range and numbers, with which, according to Israel, Iran has been systematically supplying it. Says veteran Israeli military analyst Zeev Schiff: "This is an Iran-Syria-Hizbullah array," and its use, almost certain in the event of an American or Israeli strike on Iran, could escalate into "all-out war." In the event of an Israeli onslaught on Syria - already under renewed Israeli threat for its alleged role in Hamas suicide operations - could even Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak stand idly by as his people boil?

It is clear that the mullahs don't want a full-scale showdown. In parading their assets they seek to deter rather than provoke. In fact they have always wanted better relations with the U.S., provided they get something in return and that they, not their reformist rivals, control the process.

"We can help the U.S. in Iraq," said Rafsanjani. Their meddling there is actually cautious and carefully calibrated. Holding the cards they do, they can afford to take their time. If anything, the urgency now lies on the other side; hence the urgings of pundits like Krauthammer to "strike before Iran's nukes get hot." And so does the volatility: Bush administration policy on Iran - like Syria - is one of those arenas of shifting, unresolved bureaucratic conflict between neocons and the rest, and the Pentagon's latest Israeli spy scandal has shed yet more light on its fierce and nefarious inner workings.

But perhaps the real wild card in an explosive pack of pressures and temptations lies less in the Iranian "rogue state" - in good measure a product of America's endemic hostility - than it does in what amounts to the Israeli one - that product of its excessive indulgence. Israel has repeatedly warned that it may sooner or later take direct action to stop an Iranian nuclear bomb. The well-known Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld isn't alone in suggesting that a first danger period for this is now at hand, with that window of maximum diplomatic opportunity which U.S. presidential elections always offer Israel.

As an Israeli book recounts, in 1981 then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was part of a three-man inner circle that kept the Reagan administration in the dark as they planned and carried out their daring air strike against Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant. The Israelis hoped, however, that the U.S. would come out of that experience looking as if they were complicit in the attack. This had little visible fallout.

However, a repeat performance against Iran today would be universally perceived as American in spirit, even if exclusively Israeli in execution, and the whole Middle Eastern mess, so noxious in itself as well as to the rest of the world, which America came to Iraq to clean up, would instantly cross a new threshold in scale, virulence and unpredictability.


David Hirst was for a long time Middle East correspondent of The Guardian, and is author of "The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East." He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR"

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Profile: Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Profile: Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani: "Profile: Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani


Mr Rafsanjani warned student protesters in 1999
Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani ranks among the most influential politicians in Iran.

Once considered a progressive force, he is widely seen to have moved closer to the conservative camp since the election of the reformist President, Mohammad Khatami.

President for two terms from 1989-97, Mr Rafsanjani is currently chairman of the powerful Expediency Council, as well as a deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts.

The Expediency Council arbitrates in disputes between the Majlis, Iran's parliament, and the Guardian Council, which can block legislation. The Assembly of Experts appoints the Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mr Rafsanjani's pre-revolutionary credentials earned him a place among the trusted advisers of Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He established himself as a powerful figure soon after the revolution as co-founder of the Islamic Republican Party. The party played a major role in Iranian politics until its disbandment in 1987 following internal wrangling over policy.

Mr Rafsanjani was Majlis speaker from 1980-89. In the last year of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed him acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

He is seen as the main influence behind Ayatollah Khomeini's acceptance of the UN Security Council resolution which ended the war.

As president between 1989 and 1997, Mr Rafsanjani sought to encourage a rapprochement with the West and re-establish Iran as a regional power. His influence in Lebanon helped bring about the release of Western hostages in the early 1990s.

Anyone who stretches out their hands towards Iran will have those hands cut off

Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani
Domestically, he has opposed harsh Islamic penal codes and promoted better job prospects for women. His daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, is a known champion of women's rights. Her reformist publication Zan (Woman) was closed down by the hardliners in 1997.

Since the war in Iraq, he has used Friday prayers to denounce US "plots" in the region.

"Anyone who stretches out their hands towards Iran will have those hands cut off," he said in one sermon.

And he warned students who took to the streets in June over the slow pace of reform that the US was "pinning its hopes" on them. "They should take care they are not entrapped by the Americans' sinister networks."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages."

Iran said to have 'excellent' defenses - (United Press International)

Iran said to have 'excellent' defenses - (United Press International): "Iran said to have 'excellent' defenses

Tehran, Iran, Sep. 12 (UPI) -- A top Iranian military official said Sunday his country has "excellent" military defensive capabilities, especially in ballistic missiles.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahiya Safawi, as saying, "Islamic Revolutionary Guards today have the largest defensive power in the region."

Safawi made his comments during a Sunday news conference held to announce the beginning of Iran's "Ashoura 5" military maneuvers that will continue to Sept. 20.

He said the war games were aimed at "upgrading the defensive capabilities by carrying out air and ground operations."

Safawi said the general objective of the maneuvers is to "confront the possible international threats and dangers and upgrading the level of the fighting and jihad spirit among the Guards forces...to prepare for protecting the sovereignty of the country and providing national security."

NAM to issue statement on Iran’s nuclear case

IranMania News: "NAM to issue statement on Iran’s nuclear case

Sunday, September 12, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Sep 12 ( IranMania) - The Non-Aligned Movement members of the IAEA Board of Governors have prepared a draft statement on Iran’s nuclear dossier, but will delay the release of the statement until Monday, Iran's Mehr Nesw Agency reported.

The 13-page statement by NAM, which has taken a very positive view of Iran’s nuclear program, has been finalized.

According to unconfirmed reports, the delay of the release of the NAM statement is due to resistance by some member states.

The 35-nation IAEA Board of Governors begins its next session in Vienna on Monday and is scheduled to hold another meting at the end of November."

Salman oilfield to add crude to Iran’s total yield

IranMania News: "Salman oilfield to add crude to Iran’s total yield

Sunday, September 12, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Sep 12 ( IranMania) - According to Iran's Mehr News Agency a contract to boost oil production at Salman oilfield by 50,000 bpd of crude and 500m cubic feet of natural gas from Dalan reservoir is in progress.

Petroiran Development Co., the commissioner of development plan of Salman oilfield, has put the total output from this oilfield at over 39.5m bpd of crude.

An official in the company recently told the press that development operations including drilling wells, continuing geological surveys for drilling, and updating geological prototyping for development of the reservoir would come to an end before the termination of the current Iranian year, falling on March 20, 2005.

In line with the development program, Petroiran is expected to finish transport of equipment to the site, work-over on the existing well and drilling six new wells before March 20, 2005.

The latest news coming from the site say the detailed engineering, procurement, installation and pipeline testing operations as well as drilling seven new gas wells and work-over of an existing gas well in the field will be finished before the year-end.

Mashal, a quarterly published by the Oil Ministry, in a recent report said loading, marine transport, installation and commissioning of the upper parts of the platform and delivering the oil production facilities will be met during next year."

Afghan refugees leave Iran with heavy hearts

IranMania News: "Afghan refugees leave Iran with heavy hearts

Sunday, September 12, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Sep 12 ( IranMania) - Every evening, minibuses pour into Kabul in their hundreds. But the Afghan refugees who have spent four days returning from Iran speak of leaving reluctantly and being "sharply encouraged" by Tehran.

According to AFP, in a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) centre near the airport, women draped in Iranian-style black veils wait with their husbands for the 18-dollar-per-person handouts given to new arrivals.

Others examine a public information display about landmines, with which the country is infested. Their tired faces are devoid of joy.

More than one million of these Afghan refugees have returned from Iran since April 2002, the UNHCR said last month. In recent weeks, there have been almost 4,000 a day.

"Any kilometer you are coming into you think that you are going 10 years backward. I could not even imagine," said Jawad, who has spent 22 of his 23 years in the Iranian capital.

His sister Fatima, 32, added: "There is dust, there is no sanitation, kids get sick. I did not imagine this was this much destroyed."

Squatting in the shadow of the wall around the centre, Fatima described her "normal" life in Iran with an Afghan husband, a peasant who grew "tomatoes and aubergines".

But things changed. "Our men in the family would be bothered by police and arrested. Our kids could not go to school because we had to pay" a special fee for Afghans, she said.

They wanted to stay because of the problems in Afghanistan, but were unable to. "On radio and TV they said Afghan refugees should go back because we also have an unemployment problem. They would say that we could face legal action and police would arrest people and threaten to punish them."

A 48-year-old widow sitting nearby, also called Fatima, said: "Now we are here, we came here and we don't have any house. We have come back to Afghanistan and we have nothing."

Some refugees manage to stay with their parents who remained in Afghanistan, but all of them complain of the lack of work and places to live.

Maharaj Islamudin, 32, who came to the centre to look for his parents, has decided to return to Iran in four months' time. "I left two years ago because there was no work. Now I am back and there is still no work.

"There (Iran) there is better work, prices are cheaper, the housing is cheaper, the health care is better than in Afghanistan."

"It's a mixed story," said Kiran Kaur, a protection officer from the UNHCR field office in Kabul

"Many of these people have been told they have to come back but some are happy to go back. The issues about how voluntary (these returns are) as opposed to how induced is an issue the HCR will look into," she said.

"In general you do not have mass deportation cases, but we are still monitoring."

However, Afghanistan's planning minister, Ramazan Bachardoust, said Iran, his own country's government and UNHCR were all to blame for the problem.

"We promise them mountains and marvels, and when they arrive, it's absolute misery," he said.

"In Kabul the consequences are terrible: there are no houses to rent, prices are on the rise and there are no jobs."

However, the Iranian consul in Kabul, Muslim Salatani, insisted that it was the right time for the Afghans to return home.

"The war is over in Afghanistan. The country is at peace. Iran was a second home for the Afghans during the war, but now they should go home to participate in the country's reconstruction," he said."