Wednesday, September 29, 2004

New York Post Online Edition: postopinion

New York Post Online Edition: postopinion: "AN IRAN-ISRAELI WAR?

By PETER BROOKES

September 29, 2004 -- TIME after time, the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency has demanded that Iran stop enriching uranium. Yet Tehran keeps on thumbing its nose at the U.N. body, saying its uranium enrichment is just a peaceful effort to produce electricity.
To many nations, especially Israel, it seems only a matter of time before Iran breaks out as a nuclear power, ratcheting up tension across the door Middle East. An Israel-Iran showdown over Tehran's outlaw nuclear-weapons program now seems increasingly imminent.

Last week, for example, Israel charged that Iran was merely "buying time" and will never abandon plans to develop nuclear weapons. It called for the U.N. Security Council "to put an end to this nightmare."

Addressing reporters at the U.N., Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom kept all options on the table by avoiding answering whether Israel would take military action against Iran if it continued to pursue nuclear weapons.

Also last week, the administration informed Congress that it was selling Israel 5,000 precision-guided "smart bombs," including 500 satellite-guided, one-ton JDAM "bunker busters" of Baghdad fame. (JDAMs are capable of penetrating six feet of concrete.)

In response to the arms sale, Tehran warned Tel Aviv against attacking its nuclear facilities, saying it would react "most severely" to any Israeli military action against Iran.

Then, over the weekend, Iran pointedly announced that its Shahab-3 ballistic missile was now operational. The missile can reach Israel, and Iran has 25 to 100 of them. Defense Minister Ali Shamkhrani crowed that Iran was now "ready to confront all regional [read: Israeli] and extra-regional [read: American] threats."

OK, so you say, a little chest-beating isn't the same as the beating of war drums. True. But bear in mind, Israel takes the threat of nuclear weapons in its neighborhood quite seriously. Just ask Saddam Hussein.

In 1981, Israeli fighters conducted a low-level, 700-mile, daylight raid through Saudi Arabian and Jordanian air space into Iraq. In a minute and a half, the fighters laid waste to the French-supplied Osiraq nuclear reactor — the centerpiece of Iraq's burgeoning nuclear-weapons program.

So what would happen if Israel decided to conduct a pre-emptive surgical strike on Iran's nuclear facilities?

Some say that an Israeli attack on a Muslim country would set the Middle East ablaze in an anti-Jewish frenzy. Possible, but not likely.

Sure, all Muslim governments would vociferously condemn the Israeli strike. But most would breathe a quiet sigh of relief. No one in the Middle East (except maybe Syria) wants to see fundamentalist, hegemonic Iran go nuclear. This is especially true for Iran's cross-Gulf rival, Saudi Arabia.

No Arab country would strike back at Israel, but Iran's Lebanese terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, would almost certainly target Israeli (and perhaps U.S.) interests in the region.

Iran itself could decide to retaliate on Israeli cities with missile strikes. And while Israel has a limited missile defense system, missiles raining in on Tel Aviv, a city of 3 million, could be devastating. But Israel could threaten to respond to Iranian strikes on Israeli civilian targets with nuclear weapons.

The other problem is exactly how to inflict sufficient damage on the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has as at least 24 suspected nuclear facilities scattered around the country. Some are underground; others are (intentionally) located by major population areas to ensure civilian casualties during a raid.

But the cost of doing nothing may be the most expensive. An Iranian nuclear breakout would mean a radical shift in the balance of power in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia would certainly move to go nuclear (with likely help from Pakistan).

Tehran might, as well, put Damascus under its new nuclear umbrella or, worse yet, give Syria the bomb. (Happily, even Iran's likely to see giving a nuke to Hezbollah as way too risky.)

Clearly, there are no easy choices, only hard decisions. A peaceful end to the Iranian nuclear problem should continue to be sought, but the countdown to a nuclear Iran has already begun.

Israel — at least for the moment — seems to be committed to a peaceful solution. But don't be surprised if Tel Aviv decides to jump the diplomatic track in an effort to end — or at least forestall — Iran's bid to become the first anti-Israeli member of the exclusive nuclear club.

Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow. E-mail: peterbrookes@heritage.org "

Bush Debate Question: The Wolfowitz Projections

The Gadflyer: The NASCAR Debates: "Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz projected that, by the summer 2004, the United States could be down to as few as 30,000 troops in Iraq. It's now autumn 2004, and we still have almost 140,000 troops there. Was the administration wrong in its projections about how well the war would go? Looking forward, if you are re-elected how many troops can we expect there to be on the ground in Iraq one year from now?"

Channelnewsasia.com

Channelnewsasia.com: "Diplomat released by Iraq kidnappers back in Iran

TEHRAN : An Iranian diplomat freed after a 55-day ordeal as a hostage in Iraq returned home, with the Islamic republic reiterating that no deal had been made with his kidnappers.

"At first I was badly treated, but then their conduct towards me changed," Fereydun Jahani was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi confirmed Jahani had been held by a group calling itself the Islamic Army of Iraq, but insisted that "no deal was made" in order to have the envoy released.

Jahani went missing on August 4 on the road from Baghdad to the Shiite pilgrimage city of Karbala, where he had been appointed to open an Iranian consulate.

The Islamic Army of Iraq said on August 8 that it had detained Jahani "for stirring sectarian strife and for activities outside his diplomatic duties".

The group then demanded Iran release Iraqis allegedly held since the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.

Tehran said it had freed all the POWs, as confirmed by international organisations, and officials here have said the kidnappers were "convinced" by the response as well as denials of Iranian meddling in Iraq.

The same Iraqi group is believed to be holding French journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who went missing along with their Syrian driver on August 20."

Iran's Parliament Speaker writes to Khatami on TAV, Irancell

Iran's Parliament Speaker writes to Khatami on TAV, Irancell: "Iran's Parliament Speaker writes to Khatami on TAV, Irancell
Tehran, Sept 28, IRNA -- Majlis Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel wrote a letter to President Mohammad Khatami on Wednesday in which he announced parliament's readiness to carry out expert investigations on TAV and Irancell (Turkcell) contracts.
The speaker further assured the president that the Majlis will prepare the grounds for implementation of the contracts once it receives a bill to verify the contracts.

Majlis (Parliament) on Sunday passed a bill that would make the validity of contracts with Turkcell and Tepe-Akfen-Vie (TAV), foreign companies that won bids to expand Iran's mobile telecommunications infrastructure and manage the Imam Khomeini International Airport, respectively, effective only after they are ratified by parliament.

Following the decision, President Mohammad Khatami postponed his pre-planned visit to Turkey believing that the new bill had curtailed the president's power to finalize agreements with Turkish companies during the visit to the neighboring state.

President Mohammad Khatami was scheduled to make an official visit to Turkey this week."

CNN.com - Iran vows to defend nuclear facilities from attack - Sep 28, 2004

CNN.com - Iran vows to defend nuclear facilities from attack - Sep 28, 2004: "Iran vows to defend nuclear facilities from attack
Foreign minister: 'We are against nuclear bombs'
Tuesday, September 28, 2004 Posted: 8:12 PM EDT (0012 GMT)

(CNN) -- Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazzi said on Tuesday that Tehran would "react" militarily if Israel were to launch an airstrike against any of its nuclear facilities.

"We don't use our capabilities as first user, but it is defensive and we would react to it," he told CNN.

Asked what he meant by "react," Kharazzi said, "You have to wait and see."

Kharazzi made his comments after being asked how Iran would respond if Israel were to conduct an attack on its facilities, similar to when Israel bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear facility in 1981.

Israel has given no indication that it would take such an action against Iran.

In the interview, Kharazzi said Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and that "we are against nuclear bombs."

"It's not part of our defense strategy, and we do not believe that it would add to the security of the country," he said. "Be assured that we do not have such a program at all."

The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has demanded that Iran suspend uranium-enrichment and centrifuge activities, but Iran has rejected that demand.

There have been longstanding international concerns that Iran has aspirations to develop nuclear weapons, though Tehran maintains its program is peaceful in nature.

Kharazzi said Tehran is cooperating with IAEA inspectors, and he accused the United States of mischaracterizing what is going on because Washington "is looking for its own interest and has got its own political motivation.

"Iran is quite transparent. All the sites are under inspection of IAEA."

Kharazzi did acknowledge that Iran is developing long-range and medium-range missiles that could hit targets throughout the Middle East and possibly into Europe, but he said the weapons are for "defensive" purposes.

"Certainly, we have to be able to defend ourselves. And, you see, there [are] threats these days against Iran. And, therefore, we have to be able to defend," he said, before adding, "And we are able to defend."

In an interview Monday on Fox News, President Bush said the United States was determined that Tehran not develop a nuclear weapon.

"We've made it clear: Our position is that they won't have a nuclear weapon," Bush said. "We are working our hearts out so that they don't develop a nuclear weapon, and the best way to do so is to continue to keep international pressure on them."

Bush said he hopes to resolve the matter diplomatically.

"All options are on the table, of course, in any situation. But diplomacy is the first option," he said.

Last week, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Iran would pursue its nuclear program "whether under supervision or not."

The IAEA urged Iran to "hold back," saying it is in Iran's interest to rebuild confidence with the rest of the world."

Washington's Iran Strategy: Ostracizing Tehran from the International

"Washington's Iran Strategy: Ostracizing Tehran from the International
Community"
Drafted by Erich Marquardt on September 29, 2004
http://www.pinr.com

While impossible to confirm, there is a high probability that the
leadership in Tehran is attempting to acquire a nuclear weapons capability.
By achieving a nuclear weapons capability, Iran would be better
insulated from foreign threats and would help to stabilize its regional power.
While a nuclear-armed Iran would assist in securing Iranian interests,
it would be a dangerous development for the interests of the United
States and Israel.

Because Washington lacks a viable military strategy in dealing with
Tehran, it is essential that it continues to garner the support of the
European countries of France, Germany and the United Kingdom in order to
adequately threaten Tehran with United Nations repercussions; the
present U.S. strategy is to threaten Iran with international economic
sanctions unless Tehran dismantles its enrichment-related programs.

Iran has many valid justifications for developing a nuclear weapons
capability. This status would protect Iran from the United States which
has labeled Iran an "evil" state subject to "regime change"; it would
also remove the geopolitical growth restraints that Israel has placed on
the countries of the Middle East.

Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons would weaken U.S. hopes for
external regime change in Tehran, thus protecting the regime, and would
also give Iran the opportunity to expand its influence in the Middle East
and Central Asia without certain fear of U.S. or Israeli reprisals.

Yet, while a nuclear weapons capability favors Iran's state interests,
the opposite is true for U.S. and Israeli state interests. A
nuclear-armed Iran would prevent the U.S. from executing a forceful change of
government in Tehran, since if faced with regime termination, the Iranian
leadership could possibly exercise its nuclear weapons option in a last
ditch effort for regime survival. This uncertainty would guarantee a
more prudent U.S. response to Iranian policy actions.

For Israel, which has, with the support of the United States, managed
to keep the Middle Eastern states weak and disunited, a nuclear-armed
Iran would hurt its ability to respond militarily to Iran's support of
destabilizing forces that affect Israel, or to those actions that
increase Iran's regional strength.

- Weak U.S. Response

In light of Iran's potential pursuit of nuclear weapons, both the U.S.
and Israel will need to take steps to secure their regional interests
at the expense of Iran's. Due to Iran's military strength, Israel would
prefer to rely on the U.S. to weaken the Islamic republic, for if
Washington were to move on Iran, with Israel remaining on the sidelines, it
would likely limit Iranian retaliation against Israel. But Washington
has less leverage to act since it is bogged down in Iraq and
overextended elsewhere due to its involvement in multiple theaters of conflict.
Plus, in the midst of an election year, it is not clear how the U.S.
public would respond to serious U.S. saber rattling on the issue.

Considering these restraints, Washington must refer the Iranian nuclear
issue to the U.N. Security Council so it may threaten Tehran with
economic sanctions. This type of threat could cause Tehran to comply with
international pressure. However, this route requires the support of
France, Germany and the United Kingdom. For these reasons, the U.S. must
convince these states to join in efforts of intimidating Iran with
punitive sanctions. This is the present course of the White House, with
President Bush telling American television, "We are working our hearts out so
that they do not develop a nuclear weapon, and the best way to do so is
to continue to keep international pressure on them."

Until recently, Paris, Berlin and London have been loath to adopt the
U.S. approach to the Iranian nuclear issue. Their motives rest in their
heavy trade with Iran and also with the concern that threatening Iran
could cause the state to act irrationally and potentially threaten the
stability of the Middle East. The Europeans have few qualms about
allowing Iran to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, but they
recognize that a nuclear-armed could destabilize the region.

- Destabilizing Forces

A nuclear-armed Iran could pose a great danger to the region's
stability. Presently, the only truly powerful state in the Middle East is
Israel, and its power has kept the other regional states weak and disunited.
A nuclear-armed Iran would create a new power source that would reduce
Israel's supremacy. A reduction in Israeli power could mean an increase
in power for other Middle Eastern states since Israel would not be able
to strike surrounding states, such as Syria, with impunity. Any such
strike would have to consider the potential for Iranian retaliation, or
at least heightened Iranian assistance to states or organizations
focused on reducing Israel's regional power.

If Israel were to make a military move on Iran independently of the
U.S., the military response from Iran would be harsh. Indeed, in recent
weeks, the Iranian government has gone to extremes to emphasize the
retaliatory actions it will take upon attack from Israel.

In the event of a decrease in Israeli power and an increase in the
power of other regional states, the region could become a multi-polar
mini-system, with each country competing with the other in the regional
power balance. This competition would threaten regional stability and thus
threaten the globe's oil supply -- a development that could cause oil
prices to skyrocket, hurting the economies of oil dependent countries
such as the United States and the European states.

It is this fear of regional instability that is a major factor in why
the United States has consistently supported the state of Israel. Israel
has managed to keep the power balance tilted in its favor, which has
resulted in the Middle Eastern states remaining dependent and weak, a
geopolitical status quo that provides stable, cheap oil prices due to
little regional development.

Because Iran threatens this geopolitical status quo, the European
states have been reconsidering the U.S. approach, and have shown signs of
adopting parts of it. Their reconsideration is why Washington needs to
capitalize on the opportunity and push the Europeans to adopt a more
hard-line course toward Iran. If the Europeans were to follow the U.S.
approach, it could delay Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms.

- Avoiding International Condemnation

Despite its potential pursuit of nuclear arms, Iran does not wish to be
ostracized by the international community. If Tehran were threatened
with international economic sanctions, and loss of its European
connections, it will prove to be counter-productive to the interests of the
Iranian state. Thus, while the pursuit of nuclear weapons is a rational
objective for Tehran, it is not rational if it comes at the expense of all
other objectives. Tehran has recognized this predicament and has balked
when faced with threats of isolation from Europe.

In the past, when threatened with isolation, Tehran has generally
complied with European demands, such as by opening up its country to U.N.
nuclear inspections, and by freezing the enrichment aspect of its nuclear
program. To demonstrate this, upon the latest threat by the Europeans,
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asef said, "Iran will
adjust its policies according to the performance and decision of the
[Europeans]. We do not want Iran's file to be referred to the Security
Council, but in case of a referral, the Europeans will be harmed more than
us."

- Conclusion

The preceding strategic analysis provides a course for the Bush
administration to set if it wishes to secure its interests in the Middle East.
After taking a serious hit to its military capability due to the
unexpected level of violence found in the Iraq occupation, Washington cannot
adequately threaten Iran with force. It must use the skillful art of
diplomacy to coax the Europeans to adopt Washington's position. While
there are signs that the Europeans are complying, it is far from certain
that they will agree with the U.S. on referring Iran's nuclear issue to
the U.N. Security Council.

After all, in the latest rounds of diplomacy, the Europeans did take
the step of agreeing with U.S. demands for Iran to halt its uranium
enrichment program, but they did not agree to place a "trigger mechanism"
into the U.N. draft. Therefore, if, by November, Iran does not comply
with U.N. demands, the issue will not be automatically referred to the
Security Council. It will merely spark more debate and thusly more time
for Iran to sprint down the path toward a nuclear weapons capability. All
sides in this conflict know what needs to be accomplished -- the
foreboding question, however, is which player will find itself in a better
position at the end.

- The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an analysis-based
publication that seeks to, as objectively as possible, provide insight into
various conflicts, regions and points of interest around the globe. PINR
approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved,
leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be
reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of
inquiries@pinr.com. All comments should be directed to
content@pinr.com."

Russia reluctant to refer Iran to UNSC : HindustanTimes.com

Russia reluctant to refer Iran to UNSC : HindustanTimes.com: "Russia reluctant to refer Iran to UNSC
Reuters
Moscow, September 29
Russia is against reporting Iran to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for what the United States and some other countries say are breaches of UN nuclear rules, a top Kremlin official was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

"Taking this issue to the UN Security Council, which is a political body, will hardly do us any favours," Igor Ivanov, head of Russia's Security Council and a former foreign minister who widened nuclear ties with Iran, told Interfax news agency.

However, diplomats at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the comment did not mean that Russia would definitely block a referral of the IAEA's concerns to the UNSC, which could sanction Iran.

Russia's criticism of Iran has strengthened since Tehran threatened this month to defy a call by the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, for it to stop work on enriching uranium, a process that can be used to develop nuclear arms.

Moscow for months opposed referring the agency's concerns to the Security Council, where Russia holds a veto. But last week, President Vladimir Putin, who is being pressed by the United States to stop building a nuclear power station at Bushehr in Iran, urged Tehran to heed the IAEA's demands."

Iran extends industrial exports to Afghanistan

IranMania News: "Iran extends industrial exports to Afghanistan

Wednesday, September 29, 2004 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Sep 29 (IranMania) – Iran expects to increase the value of its industrial exports to Afghanistan this year up to $300m, said export director general of the Ministry of Industries and Mines, Mehr News Agency (MNA) reported.

Ahmad Ghasemi added that, if achieved, the amount would corroborate 50% growth in comparison with the corresponding period last year.

During the period, Iran's total industrial and mineral exports attained $4 bln. "We have planned to obtain about one and a half bln dollars more until the end of the year," Ghasemi uttered.

Currently, Iran sends more than 1000 industrial products abroad, mostly medicine, detergents, chemical and petrochemical substances, plastics and melamine, tires, cellulose, mineral products, different sorts of metal, textile, various kinds of thread, synthetic fibers, shoes, cars and auto spare parts."