Thursday, September 30, 2004

Hassan Rowhani, Iran's moderate conservative behind nuclear breakthrough

Hassan Rowhani, Iran's moderate conservative behind nuclear breakthrough: "Hassan Rowhani, Iran's moderate conservative behind nuclear breakthrough

TEHRAN (AFP) Oct 22, 2003
The man behind a breakthrough deal on Iran's nuclear programme, Hassan Rowhani, is a powerful, moderately conservative cleric trusted for having kept his distance from the bitter political infighting between reformists and hardliners.
A hojatoleslam, one rank below an ayatollah in the Shiite Muslim clergy, the 50-year-old Rowhani is secretary of the Supreme Council on National Security, the top decision-making body on security issues.

It was in this capacity that he, and not members of the elected government, headed negotiations with Britain, France and Germany that led to the deal Tuesday under which Iran agreed to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) demands.

Rowhani served for several years as vice president of the Majlis, or parliament, and was supported by the main conservative faction, the Society of Combattant Clerics.

It was then that he was appointed to manage the security council on behalf of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The body groups the country's top officials, including the president, head of parliament, head of the judiciary and ministers of intelligence, foreign affairs, intelligence and interior.

Rowhani is also a director of Iran's Center for Strategic Studies, and is seen as close to powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who now head Iran's top political arbitration body, the Expediency Council.

Like many in Iran's leadership, Rowhani studied theology in the central holy city of Qom, before going on to earn a doctorate in law. It is this background that also earned him a seat on the Council of Experts, the body charged with electing Iran's all-powerful supreme leader.

But while being at the top of the clerical regime, in recent years he has emerged as a moderate voice. Several months ago he was quoted by the official Iran newspaper as saying clerics should not occupy all political posts.

Considered to be a pragmatist but a trusted pillar of the regime, Rowhani was clearly seen as an ideal choice as negotiator with Britain's Jack Straw, France's Dominique de Villepin and Germany's Joschka Fischer.

In unprecedented talks with the three foriegn ministers in Tehran Tuesday, Rowhani bowed to IAEA demands that the country come clean on its nuclear activities and sign up to a strict inspections regime in order to ease fears the country was on a fast track to developing nuclear weapons.

The fact that it was Rowhani, and not embattled President Khatami, who struck the deal gives analysts some confidence that the arrangement may stick.

"Hassan Rowhani is a personal representative of the supreme leader, and his presence alongside the three European ministers signifies that the accord adopted has backing at the very top," an Iranian political analyst explained. "Therefore this deal does carry weight.""

Iran as Bush's nuclear bogeyman

Iran as Bush's nuclear bogeyman: "Iran as Bush's nuclear bogeyman

William O. Beeman, Donald A. Weadon
Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Bush administration continues an escalating spiral toward conflict with Iran, using Iran's nuclear policy as its primary focus. At the same time, the administration is reducing restrictions on other emerging nuclear states that pose a far more serious and immediate threat to world peace.

The consequence of this badly inconsistent policy is increased nuclear danger for the entire world. Since the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has lacked convenient villains to be "against, " and the essential mechanics of American foreign policy seems to lose focus and founder.

Iran has become an on-again, off-again focus of American international discomfiture. It is a purported linchpin in international terrorism, a defiant nation who refuses to submit to years of U.S. economic warfare, a state run by theocratic functionaries, and now a nuclear felon. In short, Iran is a perfect villain, just what America needs, and the nuclear issue is a perfect pretext for this hostile behavior -- one that plays well to a nervous American public.

What the Bush administration is not telling Americans is that while it is directing attacks and calling for sanctions against Iran, it is touting meaningless nuclear containment efforts on the one hand and is consciously ignoring illegal and far more dangerous nuclear weapons development on the other. None of this is being done to guarantee public safety, but rather for partisan political reasons.

The silliest example of "progress" in nuclear containment is that of Libya. On Sept. 20, just after removing them from the list of terrorist nations, President Bush revoked a number of restrictive executive orders against Libya in part for Libya's abandonment of its nuclear ambitions. The Bush administration claims this as a diplomatic success. In fact, the Libyans gave up a fledgling and inconsequential program in exchange for political acceptance by the Western world and decreased trade restrictions.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq also did nothing to contain nuclear weapons development, since Saddam Hussein's progress on this front was negligible. Nevertheless, Iraq's "nuclear threat" was one of the reasons given by President Bush to justify the Iraq invasion. These examples of "noncontainment" containment are the purest political spin. The choice of the United States to ignore real and significant weapons development elsewhere for equally political reasons has far more serious consequences.

The United States also recently removed nuclear restrictions imposed upon India for their thinly disguised nuclear weapons program. Much of the impetus for this reportedly came from the head of the export licensing arm of the Commerce Department, who is lobbying for a job as ambassador to India and who has a very cozy relationship with the Defense Department's neoconservative leadership.

And then there is North Korea. Washington continues to huff and puff at Pyongyang, but mindful of the intelligence community's long-held determination that we have no real strategic options, we continue to appease North Korea's frankly aggressive nuclear weapons ambitions.

The United States imposed no real sanctions upon Pakistan even though their none-too-secret proliferation, "Dr. A.Q. Khan's Road Show," spanned from South Africa to Taiwan and was responsible for a frightening East Asian nuclear race with India. But Pakistani assistance in the war on terrorism has been so essential as a point of political spin for the Bush administration that the Pakistan government has been granted a pass on their nuclear weapons program.

What about Taiwan? Their decades-old nuclear program included not only weapons development at the Chung Shan Institute, but also production of American Society for Mechanical Engineering Code Part III nuclear components - - the international standard -- at Kaioshung for nuclear programs throughout the world. The open-market availability of these parts through Taiwan is a key element of the world proliferation problem. Sanctions? Absolutely not.

Brazil is now defying the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding questions over its nuclear program, which is not benign. This would violate the long-standing U.S. determination to keep South America nuclear- free. And the U.S. response? No seismic rumbles of the kind directed toward Iran are apparent here. And forget South Korean enrichment efforts -- clearly they were "just a mistake."

Finally, Israel has a robust nuclear weapons arsenal and is not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty, with nary a word of disapproval from Washington.

But, oh, those mad mullahs in Iran! From the rhetoric pouring out of the Bush administration, one would think that they constitute the greatest nuclear threat on the planet.

The Iranian program, in comparison to so many others, is less developed and less dangerous. It is ironic that the United States propelled Iran on a nuclear course years ago, urging them to sink billions into a handful of energy-producing reactors which we now demand they dismantle. Iran has specifically renounced the development of nuclear weapons, and is a signatory to the most stringent nuclear nonproliferation agreements. Even if Iran wanted to develop nuclear weaponry, the CIA estimates that it would take years before anything of any significance could be produced.

Yet speculation is widespread that a military strike by the United States or Israel against Iran's reactors is a possibility, despite the fact that such a strike is fraught with great risk. The U.S. intelligence community was reported in the Sept. 27 issue of Newsweek to have concluded, after months of "war-gaming," that no military strategy exists that would keep a strike on Iran from escalating.

The Bush administration has so mishandled matters that it has now touched the most powerful symbolic nerve for Iran -- national "face." The United States has pushed Iran so hard and with such discriminatory prejudice that the leadership of the Islamic Republic has shown itself willing to partially act against their own interests to rescue Iran's national honor. Threats from the United States, or from its surrogate in this struggle, Israel, are met with escalating defiance by Iran. The Reuters disclosure on Sept. 21 that the United States has agreed to send 500 "bunker buster" BLU-109 bombs, presumably to attack Iranian nuclear facilities has only served to further infuriate the Iranians.

Iranian President Khatami said on Sept. 20, "They [the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United States] have to explicitly recognize our natural and legal right [to peaceful nuclear energy] to open the way for greater understanding and cooperation." He added, "We've made our choice. Now it is up to others to make their choice." Iran then resumed its nuclear enrichment program.

The Bush administration's pursuit of Iran on this issue is counter- productive, and may become deadly dangerous. Through its exclusive targeting of Iran, leading perhaps to an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, the Bush administration is not making the world a safer place. They are giving a pass to powers far more dangerous than Iran, and goading Iran to retaliate for any violence directed against it. If Iran chooses to answer these attacks, it is not likely to be in a way that will improve prospects for peace in the Middle East, or in the rest of the world.

William O. Beeman is professor of anthropology and director of Middle East Studies at Brown University. Donald A. Weadon, a former naval officer, is a Washington-based international lawyer specializing in technology, defense, and trade sanctions."

Forward Newspaper: Dems Talk Tough On Iran

Forward Newspaper Online: "

Dems Talk Tough On Iran
October 1, 2004

Even as Senator John Kerry suggests that better diplomacy could have kept America out of war in Iraq, his advisers are warning that the Democrat could wind up ordering military intervention against another Middle Eastern power: Iran.

"John Kerry has been crystal clear that a nuclear Iran is intolerable to the U.S.," the head of the Democratic candidate's Middle East task force, former California congressman Mel Levine, told the Forward. "He would not rule out the use of force [to block Iran from developing nuclear weapons]. Obviously, force should be the last resort here, but if Iran refused to do what the entire international community wanted and what the U.S. needs from Iran, no options would be removed from the table."

Levine's comments echoed those of another top Kerry foreign policy adviser, former ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke. On September 23, Holbrooke told Bill O'Reilly of Fox News that "there is no way the United States can allow the Iranians to go nuclear, and I don't think the Israelis will allow it either."

"You cannot rule out the fact that military force may be used, and it is rather significant that the United States is now selling Israel over $300 million worth of bunker busting bombs," Holbrooke said, referring to a recent news report on a pending U.S. arms sale to Israel. "They don't need those for the Palestinians."

The tough talk comes as Kerry seeks to walk a tightrope with his base. He hopes to attract centrist voters who believe the Iraq war was a mistake because it diverted attention from a more aggresive war on terrorism, without alienating the antiwar elements of the Democratic Party. Some traditional liberals have become increasingly resistant to U.S. military intervention.

With the first presidential debate, focusing on foreign policy, set to take place Thursday night, the issue of Iran may take on greater prominence in the campaign.

Asked to flesh out Kerry's position, Levine said the candidate supports the sale of the bunker-buster bombs to Israel. Levine said he did not want to speculate about what Jerusalem might do about Iran's nuclear threat, but said: "Israel has made it very clear it looks to the United States for leadership on this issue."

Levine and Holbrooke each appeared to sound a more hawkish note on Iran than the one struck by the Democrat vice presidential nominee, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. In a August interview, Edwards called for a dialogue with Iran, offering it help on its nuclear energy aims in return for verifiable assurances that its nuclear program remains focused on peaceful purposes. That stance drew the fire of hawks, including Senator John Kyl, an Arizona Republican, who charged that Iran would flout any American strictures.

At the same time, Democrats are criticizing Bush on the issue.

Noting that Bush did not say a word about Iran during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, Levine accused the president of failing to address the issue adequately

"This is an administration that has denigrated the notion of seeking help from our traditional European allies," Levine said. "While this administration was obsessed with Iraq, Iran and North Korea became much more dangerous. Iran is a charter member of the state-sponsored terrorism club and has made it quite clear it is developing a nuclear weapon and a delivery capability. This administration has sat on the sidelines."

The administration, for its part, has taken pains to stress that international diplomatic efforts constitute the preferred method for dissuading Iran from using its reactors to make nuclear weapons. President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told CNN earlier this month that "we believe that this is something that is best resolved by diplomatic means, and that can be resolved by diplomatic means." Underscoring the point during a recent trip to Jerusalem, Bush's top official on nuclear nonproliferation, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, said the president was "determined to try and find a peaceful and diplomatic solution" to the Iranian problem.

This week, however, Newsweek reported that the CIA and the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency have conducted war games to calculate the cost of the likely consequences of a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. The magazine reported that the agencies were not satisfied with the outcome, which showed that such a move would only lead to an escalating conflict.

Democratic hawks were undeterred. Whatever the cost, said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, "Iran cannot be permitted to have nuclear weapons. Period. Not this regime." Nadler described Iran as a "mortal threat to the United States and Israel."

Even so, Nadler said, he advocates what he called "carrot and stick" engagement with the Iranians.

Knocking out Iran's reactors "is not that simple" a step because they're dispersed and hardened targets and many of them are "hot," which could lead to a Chernobyl-like meltdown, Nadler said.

"That's another reason I was opposed to the war in Iraq," Nadler said. Saddam Hussein was "a fascist thug," but he "could be contained."

The absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq makes it look like we "cried wolf," Nadler said. "The question is: Was it worth it, the loss of credibility against a real nuclear threat?""

Israel threatens to attack Iran -DAWN - Top Stories; 30 September, 2004

Israel threatens to attack Iran -DAWN - Top Stories; 30 September, 2004: "Israel threatens to attack Iran

JERUSALEM, Sept 29: A military strike is among Israel's options to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons, Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Wednesday in the latest threat by the Jewish state against its arch-foe.

Asked by a newspaper if Iranian atomic facilities could be bombed - a tactic Israel used to destroy Iraq's main reactor in 1981 - Mr Mofaz said: "All options for preventing this (Tehran obtaining nuclear weapons) will be considered."

"The important thing is to stop the current (Iranian) regime reaching a nuclear option," Mr Mofaz told Yedioth Ahronoth daily. Iran says its nuclear programme is being pursued solely to meet civilian energy needs. But Tehran, which rejects Israel's right to exist, stirred world suspicion this month by defying calls by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) not to prepare raw uranium for enrichment.

Washington is leading diplomatic pressure on Iran to come clean on its atomic programme. "The American ... demands for invasive inspection, threat of sanctions - appear to be the right thing to do," Mr Mofaz said.

"On the other hand, the Iranians are doing everything possible to buy time. The question is what will happen first - nuclear capability or a change in the regime?" Israeli officials say Iran could produce atomic weapons by 2007, fuelling speculation Israel may strike militarily first.

Widely believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear power, Israel plans to buy 500 "bunker buster" bombs from its US ally that could be delivered by long-range jets and prove effective against Iran's facilities, many of which are underground.

"It is possible that Western agencies, doubtful about the success of the diplomatic effort, prefer to have Israel act in their place," the liberal Haaretz newspaper said on Wednesday. "Nobody has asked Israel to refrain from a belligerent act." -Reuters"

IranMania News: Turkey offers $10b of trade to Iran

IranMania News: "Turkey offers $10b of trade to Iran

Thursday, September 30, 2004 - ©2004

LONDON, Sep 30 ( IranMania) - "With the establishment of permanent and extensive economic relationships, the annual trade volume between the two countries – Iran and Turkey - may reach the level of 10 billion dollars per year," Turkish State Minister Kursad Tuzmen, who on Wednesday was due to visit Iran, said.

According to Iran's Mehr News Agency, Tuzmen’s visit to Iran is made at a time when some obstructions are carried out against the Turkish investments. He said, "Let us raise our trade volume to Iran to 10 billion dollars," Turks.US reported on Wednesday.

Tuzmen was due to go to Tehran on Wednesday to attend the International Industry Fair together with 500 businessmen and 220 company representatives. Some 220 companies will attend from Turkey at the Tehran International Industry Fair to which 650 companies will attend from 35 countries. According to the figures, the Turkish companies will constitute one-third of the companies to attend the fair."