Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Daily Times - Troublemaking in Iraq is two-edged sword for Iran

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Troublemaking in Iraq is two-edged sword for Iran

By Alistair Lyon

Analysts say Iran is certainly seeking influence in Iraq, as in other countries like Afghanistan and Lebanon, but will act cautiously unless severely provoked by Washington

THE temptation for Iran is clear. Inflict pain on the Americans in Iraq in response to mounting US pressure over Tehran’s nuclear programme.

But stirring up too much trouble could endanger Iran’s own strong interest in having a stable neighbour, analysts say. “The great worry about the Bush administration is that they will decide now is the time to move on to the next adventure, which is Iran,” British defence expert Tim Garden said.

“They might mount military strikes on nuclear facilities, irritating the Iranians enough to be more active in Iraq.”

The United States and Israel are Iran’s most vocal accusers, vowing not to let Tehran acquire atomic weapons. Iran says it has no such goal, but it has defied Saturday’s call by the UN nuclear agency that it freeze all uranium enrichment activities.

Iraq’s defence minister has accused Iran of arming Shi’ite rebels who battled US and Iraqi forces in Najaf last month, but interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said this week the Iranian government was not necessarily involved. Some in Washington and London say Iran has sent intelligence agents across the border and is nurturing contacts with, if not funding and arming, a range of Shi’ite and Kurdish groups.

Nevertheless Iran has recognised Iraq’s US-backed interim government and analysts say Tehran cannot afford to alienate top Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who brokered a peace deal in Najaf and advocates elections, not violence.

“After Sistani’s intervention, even those looking for trouble are being very careful,” said an Iranian analyst in Tehran, who asked not to be named. He said Iranian leaders were also wary of meddling in Iraq because they feared Washington could make Iran a scapegoat for its failure there.

“At this stage, Iran’s objective is to promote stability,” said Gary Sick, a professor at New York’s Columbia University. “The last thing they want is civil war in Iraq.”

Constraints on Iran: Iran is certainly seeking influence in Iraq, as in other countries like Afghanistan and Lebanon, but will act cautiously unless severely provoked by Washington, analysts said. “If the confrontation gets out of hand in terms of economic or political sanctions, Iran might begin to use its influence to play a spoiling role in Iraq,” said Gary Samore, of London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“But they don’t have a free hand. They are limited by the interest of the Shi’ites in cooperating with the Americans (on elections),” he said. “They could stir up resentment as well as trouble - there is a nationalistic Arab element in Iraq.”

Samore said Iran could still restore the suspension of enrichment activities and could defer a final decision until after the US presidential election on November 2.

For now, the United States is pursuing diplomatic options, eager to have the International Atomic Energy Agency report Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Iran has threatened to bar spot checks of its nuclear sites if its case goes to the Security Council, or pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty if sanctions are imposed.

Iran analyst Ali Ansari said UN sanctions would backfire on the world economy if they targeted Iranian oil exports. “The oil price is likely to go through the roof if Iran’s oil is embargoed,” he said.

British role: Britain, Washington’s main ally in Iraq, has sought to show that diplomacy can persuade Iran to prove that its nuclear intentions are peaceful, without military action or sanctions. But Tehran has angered European heavyweights Britain, France and Germany by reneging on its promise to suspend all uranium enrichment activities in exchange for improved economic ties.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, dogged by criticism over Iraq, faces an election next year and may want to fend off any fresh controversy over military action or sanctions on Iran.

“What we want is for Iran not to have nuclear weapons,” a government spokesman said. “The best way to achieve this is to have a strong, united international community continuing to tell Iran it must give us confidence it is not seeking them.” But if George W Bush wins re-election, hawks in his administration and in Israel may lost patience with diplomacy. The United States plans to sell Israel 500 “bunker busters” and other bombs - weapons that could hit Iran’s underground nuclear sites - Israeli security sources said on Tuesday. reuters

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Aljazeera.Net - Iran: Curbs on foreign investment

Aljazeera.Net - Iran: Curbs on foreign investment: "Iran: Curbs on foreign investment
Khatami: Move is a major blow to the economy

Iran's conservative-held parliament has approved the first reading of a bill that will place tough controls on foreign investment.

Embattled reformist President Muhammad Khatami has said the move will deal a major blow to the economy.

"This law is without precedent in the history of the Islamic republic," a visibly angry Khatami told reporters after a cabinet meeting. "It will paralyse the work of the government."

A majority of deputies gave preliminary approval to the bill, which obliges the government to seek the approval of MPs for major deals signed with foreign companies.

"This will discourage foreigners from investing in Iran. This will cost the country billions of dollars," Khatami complained.

"This law signifies that the voice of a government led by a president representing the people has no value and that the government cannot deal with the international community," the president fumed.

Another blow
Parliament is to examine the bill

The vote is yet another setback for Khatami and his reformist-dominated cabinet, already politically isolated after the ouster of reformists from parliament in February's elections.

Hardliners and conservatives took control of the Iranian parliament, or Majlis, after most reformists and moderates loyal to the government were barred from standing in the polls.

Parliament is now scheduled to examine the bill article by article and Khatami said he hoped it would "change the nature of the text" in the process.

In its current form the bill is retroactive and would apply to any contracts signed from the beginning of the current Iranian year on 20 March, and in which a foreign company has more than a 49% stake.

Contracts

It also singles out contracts related to airport services and telecommunications.

This is a direct reference to an airport building and operating contract signed with Tepe-Akfen-Vie (TAV) - an Austrian-Turkish consortium - and a deal with Turkey's Turkcell to provide Iran with more mobile phone lines.

In May, Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards shut down Tehran's new airport arguing that the contract with TAV endangered the Islamic republic's security because the operators also had business dealings with Israel."

Iran's oil production to hit 3,960,000 bpd: OPEC official

Iran's oil production to hit 3,960,000 bpd: OPEC official: "Iran's oil production to hit 3,960,000 bpd: OPEC official
Given Iran's 14.6 percent production quota in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the country will increase its production by 146,000 barrels per day (bpd) as of the beginning of November, 2004, said Iran's representative to the Organization of Petroleum Explorting Countries (OPEC) on Tuesday, IRNA reported from Tehran.
Tehran Times, in its Wednesday edition, said that Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, referring to Iran's oil production quota following the recent OPEC decision to boost the cartel's production by one million bpd, said that "Iran's total oil production will hit 3,960,000 bpd starting from November."

Commenting on the results of consultations by OPEC members to change the organization's oil production basket and their decision regarding the new price limits, Ardebili noted that following such consultations the executive board and the long-term policies committee are to present their reports for OPEC members to make a final decision during the cartel's extraordinary meeting to be held in Cairo on December 10.

During their last meeting, OPEC members agreed that their next conference would be held in the northern Iranian city of Mahmoudabad, on March 16, 2005, Ardebili stated.

He further noted that the oil ministers of all 11 OPEC member states signified their intention to attend the meeting.

Referring to the current OPEC basket price, the official said, "Presently, all members are discussing the issue; however, all of them defend the current price of 25 dollars plus or minus $3." "

Kerry Campaign Blasts Bush On Iran

Kerry Campaign Blasts Bush On Iran: "Kerry Campaign Blasts Bush On Iran
AFP: 9/22/2004

WASHINGTON, Sept 22 (AFP) - Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign blasted the Bush administration Wednesday for "another national security failure" on Iran's nuclear program and urged that Tehran be threatened with tougher sanctions.

Campaign spokesman Mark Kitchens told AFP that the White House's "arrogant unilateralism" had made it harder to get the necessary cooperation from European allies and the UN nuclear watchdog to rein in Iran's ambitions.

He made his comments a day after a State Department spokesman expressed alarm over Iran's admitted program of uranium enrichment and declared that Tehran was making an "unrelenting push toward nuclear weapons capability."

"Recent developments represent another national security failure for the Bush administration," Kitchens said as the Kerry campaign sharpened its attacks on President George W. Bush six weeks before the November 2 election.

Kitchens said the administration had lost its bid for a tougher International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution that would have referred concern over Iran to the UN Security Council.

"Now we learn that Iran will not even comply with the IAEA resolution and has begun uranium enrichment activities," he said.

"We must make clear to Iran that the United States will lead an international effort to push for tougher measures, including sanctions, if they do not comply with the IAEA resolution," Kitchens said.

Contacted for comment, the Bush campaign had no immediate response.

Both Bush and Kerry have publicly given a high priority to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. But neither side has offered any new solution for dealing with Iran and neither has spoken of possible military action as in neighboring Iraq."

Powell is unaware of the plan to attack Iran

U.S. Has No Plans To Attack Iran: Powell: "U.S. Has No Plans To Attack Iran: Powell
AFP: 9/22/2004

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 22 (AFP) - The United States has no plans to attack Iran to thwart what it claims is the Islamic republic's pursuit of nuclear weapons, but has not formally ruled out any options to deal with the matter, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday.

Instead, Powell told reporters that Washington and its allies were concentrating on a diplomatic and political route to force Iran to come clean about and abandon the alleged program within the auspices of the UN system.

"I'm not aware of any plans to attack Iran," he told reporters on the sidelines of the annual session of the UN General Assembly. "Every nation has all options available to it.

"I think we're working in the world of diplomacy and politics," Powell said, adding that he had found in conversations with foreign officials a consensus that Iran had to meet demands from the UN nuclear watchdog by November or face possible sanctions from the UN Security Council.

"If it doesn't do that by the time of the November IAEA meeting, I think there will be every reason at that point to send the matter on to the Security Council," he said.

"We're talking about diplomacy and political efforts to stop this movement on the part of the Iranians toward a nuclear weapon," Powell said. "We're not talking about strikes. But every option always, of course, remains on the table."

On Saturday, the International Atomic Energy Agency gave Iran until November 25 to clear up suspicions over the program. In the meantime, the agency has called for Iran to immediately halt its controversial uranium enrichment-related activities.

Iran's leadership has refused to back away from efforts to master the entire nuclear fuel cycle, and has argued that the latest IAEA demands are "illegal".

On Wednesday, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Iran would not give up its plans to enrich uranium."

'Iraq-Style' U.N. Plan Not Sought for Iran

'Iraq-Style' U.N. Plan Not Sought for Iran: "'Iraq-Style' U.N. Plan Not Sought for Iran

AP Headlines

'Iraq-Style' U.N. Plan Not Sought for Iran


Bush Expected to Seek Hurricane Ivan Aid


Bush, Iraqi Leader Condemn Beheading


Text of Bush's Speech to the U.N.


Statements by CBS News President, Rather


more >





By GEORGE GEDDA, Associated Press Writer


WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has no plans to seek an "Iraq-style" U.N. Security Council resolution on Iran if it succeeds in efforts to have the council address that country's nuclear activities.

A senior State Department official said Wednesday there is a widespread misconception that the administration wants the same type of resolution for Iran as the one which led to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last year.

If the council takes up the Iran question, the administration would seek a resolution calling for a suspension of uranium enrichment activity by Iran, much as the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has done repeatedly, the official said.

The official briefed reporters on the condition that he not be identified.

For almost a year, the administration has been asking the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to refer Iran's nuclear activities to the council.

Thus far, the IAEA board has declined to do so. It will address the issue again on Nov. 25.

The administration believes that Iran is developing a uranium-based nuclear weapons capability and rejects Tehran's contention that its program is aimed solely at generating electricity.

American concerns about Iran's program were reinforced on Tuesday when an Iranian official disclosed that work has begun on converting raw uranium into the gas needed for enrichment, a process that can be used to produce highly enriched uranium suitable for use in a nuclear weapon.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, in New York this week for the U.N. General Assembly, said in response to a question that he is not aware of any plans to attack Iran. But he added that the military option "remains on the table."

"I think there's a clear understanding now that Iran must satisfy the concerns that have been expressed by the international community by the time of the November meeting," Powell said.

If Iran doesn't cooperate, he said "there will be every reason at that point to send the matter on to the Security Council."

For the time being, Powell said, the United States is relying on diplomacy "to stop this movement on the part of the Iranians toward a nuclear weapon.""

The New York Times > Washington > Diplomatic Memo: Bush Aides Divided on Confronting Iran Over A-Bomb

The New York Times > Washington > Diplomatic Memo: Bush Aides Divided on Confronting Iran Over A-Bomb: "Bush Aides Divided on Confronting Iran Over A-Bomb
By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

Published: September 21, 2004


ASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - At a time when the violent insurgency in Iraq is vexing the Bush administration and stirring worries among Americans, events may be propelling the United States into yet another confrontation, this time with Iran. The issues have an almost eerie familiarity, evoking the warnings and threats that led to the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and stirring an equally passionate debate.

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Like Iraq in its final years under Saddam Hussein, Iran is believed by experts to be on the verge of developing a nuclear bomb. In Iraq, that proved to be untrue, though this time the consensus is much stronger among Western experts.

In addition, as with Iraq, administration officials have said recently that Iran is supporting insurgencies and terrorism in other countries. Recently, top administration officials have accused the Tehran government of backing the rebels in Iraq, something that officials fear could increase if Iran is pressed too hard on its nuclear program.

A parallel concern in Washington is Iran's continued backing of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group that the administration and the Israeli government say is channeling aid to groups attacking Israeli civilians. Israel also warns that Iran's nuclear program will reach a "point of no return" next year, after which it will be able to make a bomb without any outside assistance.

The Bush administration has yet to forge a clear strategy on how to deal with Iran, partly because of a lack of attractive options and partly because there is a debate under way between hard-liners and advocates of diplomatic engagement. But in another similarity with the Iraq situation before the war, Washington is in considerable disagreement with key allies over how to handle the threat.

Britain, France and Germany say Iran's nuclear program is unacceptable, but they also warn that a confrontation could backfire and that incentives as well as punishments need to be presented to Tehran. Threatening sanctions - a cutoff in oil purchases, for example - is not viewed as credible or likely to get much support, they say.

European views cannot be dismissed, especially after the discord over Iraq, administration officials say. Last weekend, under European pressure, the United States agreed to defer its demand that the International Atomic Energy Agency immediately refer Iran's noncooperation on nuclear issues to the United Nations Security Council, where sanctions might be considered.Instead, Iran was given two more months to show that it was cooperating.

Still, even Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, the leading advocate of diplomacy in Mr. Bush's inner circle, cites a gathering threat from Iran.

"Diplomacy does not mean failure to look in the lion's mouth," Mr. Powell said in a recent interview. "Diplomacy doesn't mean pretending something isn't there when it's there. The Iranians have a nuclear weapons program, and I keep telling everybody it is the responsibility of the international community to apply all the pressure we can."

With Iran policy in a state of flux, there is a drive among conservatives to reach out to Iranian dissidents and exiles seeking to overthrow the government, much as efforts were made with Iraqis in the 1990's. Senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, is sponsoring legislation favoring "regime change," with what some say is the tacit backing of administration conservatives.

Last year, when it was trying to reach out to Tehran for cooperation on Iraq, the administration stated that it did not support regime change in Iran, though President Bush also spoke out in favor of greater democracy there.

Administration officials say that there was an internal debate last year but that the idea of giving aid to dissidents who might try to overthrow the Iranian government had been dropped for lack of any credible groups to support.

Yet the cause of regime change in Iran is expected to be revived if President Bush is re-elected, administration officials say. Leading the charge is John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for nonproliferation, who gave a speech last month saying that Iran's conduct did not "bode well for the success of a negotiated approach to dealing with this issue." A colleague called him "the self-appointed tip of the spear" in the discussions."